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Forest panel clearance to Kalu dam raises greens’ hackles

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Green activists have expressed shock over the clearance for the Kalu dam project given by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), in total disregard of the orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Central Information Commission.

Green activists have expressed shock over the clearance for the Kalu dam project given by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), in total disregard of the orders of the National Green Tribunal and the Central Information Commission. 

“This is a U-turn from the FAC’s decision on April 2, 2012 to not give clearance for the Kalu project,” said Indavi Tulpule of the Shramik Mukti Sangathana, the NGO that had filed a case in the high court against the project and had managed to get a stay on the work. 

The dam is to be built in Murbad tehsil of Thane district that falls in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats region. The NGO has argued that this drinking water project for Mumbai and Thane threatens to submerge 18 villages and there is no rehabilitation plan for the 18,000 people who will be displaced. 

The FAC had also refused clearance for the project a year ago, as the project was started without seeking forest clearance, no environment impact assessment (EIA), or technical report on the wildlife status, and no gram sabha resolutions on the compliance of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). 

“All of the Maharashtra Water Resource Department’s (MWRD) illegalities and irregularities still stand today, they have not been addressed, and it’s not like the 1,000 plus hectares of Western Ghats’ forests which will be destroyed have vanished in a year,” Tulpule pointed out. 

The FAC cleared the project at a meeting on April 3-4, 2013, without bothering to disclose this publicly as required under the law. Minutes of the meeting became available only on Thursday. 

“The FAC did not see the need to ascertain whether all these requirements were in place even when it was pointed out in a letter dated October 29, 2012 and again on March 25, 2013 that no such resolutions exist,” Tulpule said. The NGO intends to pursue the case in the high court which is already seized of the matter. 

In a blatant violation of the Central Information Commission’s orders, no documents submitted by the MWRD on the Kalu project were available on the MoEF website even a week before the FAC meeting. 

In October 2012, Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan said, “These actions and decisions of officials are unacceptable. The forthcoming FAC meeting will be postponed, and I’ll resolve these (violations and non-compliance)  issues.”

Courtesy: dna

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NOC delays stall 276 small hydel projects

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SHIMLA: In his budget speech on March 14, chief minister Virbhadra Singh had expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made in harnessing hydro power potential of the state. Now, an RTI query has revealed that delay in obtaining NOCs and other clearances from various departments and objections from locals, from time to time, has left 276 small hydro projects hanging fire.

In the RTI information, HIMURJA has revealed that many proposals for small hydro electric projects in Himachal Pradesh are languishing in files. Although, there is a provision of single window clearance for projects of 5 MW and below, these 276 projects, of the total 433, have surpassed the time period allowed, while the remaining 157 projects, though pending, are still within the time period, said RTI activist Devashish Bhattacharya.

It means, if average of 3 MW of each project is taken into account, then a total of 1,299 MW power potential remains trapped in red tape, he said.

As per rules, projects of 5 MW or below are entitled for single window clearance, yet these are pending with different departments for NOCs and clearences, according to information received from director of HIMURJA.

Bhattacharya said that the reason for delay was mentioned as “Delay in obtaining NOCs/clearances from various departments and objections from locals, from time to time.’

“It is a matter of concern that despite the provision of single window clearance for below-5 MW projects, NOCs and clearances are pending with various departments. It is not understood why the government is not ensuring speedy clearances, when it is in the larger interests of the state,” he added.

Himachal Pradesh has revised its hydro power potential to 27,436 MW while 8,375 MW hydro power has been harnessed till date.

The delay in granting approval in the past has already caused huge loss of industrial investment to state. During the budget session of the state assembly, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri had said that when the special industrial package was granted to Himachal Pradesh, it was estimated that the state would attract investment of around Rs 48,000 crore. But in the last ten years, investment of only 13,000 crore has materialised. “When we checked the reasons, it came out that delayed clearances proved the biggest hurdle and ultimately discouraged investment,” he said.

Agnihotri had said that when the issue will be referred to single window committee headed by chief minister, a final clearance would be accorded after which no further clearance would be required. To attract investments, the state government will proactively and aggressively follow the approach of “industry by invitation” programmes in other states so as to send a message that Himachal Pradesh is now an investor-friendly state, he said.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Rainwater harvesting a must for all housing projects in Noida

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NOIDA: Due to the rapidly depleting groundwater levels and the need to conserve it, Noida Authorityhas made it compulsory for all developmental and group housing projects to ensure proper rainwater harvesting systems before they apply for completion certificates. The planning department of the Authority has also made it mandatory for future allottees of group housing projects to submit affidavits of the rainwater systems to be installed at their sites before they are provided allotment letters.

Authority officials said that from now completion certificates would be issued to group housing projects only after it is found upon inspection that rainwater systems installed are working as per norms. “Site visits would be conducted by teams. Completion certificates will not be provided based simply on the fact that the project has a provision for such systems,” said a senior Authority official.

The decision has been taken following the rap by the National Green Tribunal for failing to conserve groundwater tables in the city. Extraction of groundwater for construction has already been halted since the last four months.

Besides, officials said existing projects will also be inspected by the Authority in a few days.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Coalgate: CBI director files affidavit in SC; admits law min’s interference

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New Delhi: CBI director Ranjit Sinha on Friday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the draft status report on coal scam had been shared with Law Minister Ashwini Kumar.

The affidavit further mentioned that the draft status report on coal was shared with the joint secretary in PMO and other coal ministry officials as well.

The affidavit contains annexures of both the reports – the one which was submitted to the law ministry and the final report prepared by the probe agency.

The Supreme Court may have a look at both the reports and decide whether there has been any dilution in the report.

The affidavit contains progress made in the case so far.

BJP and other opposition parties have been demanding resignation of Kumar as the law minister for allegedly interfering with the functioning of the CBI.

The controversy has led to protests both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha paralysing the resumed Budget session of Parliament session for the second day.

Courtesy: ZEE Media Bureau

IIT, pollution control board team begins inspection of Sterlite unit

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A team of experts from IIT Madras and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials have begun inspecting the copper smelter unit of Sterlite Industries on a direction from the National Green Tribunal following an alleged noxious gas leak last month, causing health problems among locals.

Officials said the copper smelter unit was operated in the presence of the team to check the quantum of sulphur dioxide being released. The committee made on-the-spot assessments in the heat-up process in the smelter, sulphuric acid plant and air monitoring system and also took note of data recorded in the system, they said.

The team, which began its inspection yesterday, would visit the factory again on Friday when the plant reaches full capacity to assess the amount of sulphur dioxide being let out and submit its report on April 29, they said.

The gas leak caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation among several people in the locality. On March 30 the TNPCB had ordered closure of the Vedanta group company.

However, Sterlite Industries moved the National Green Tribunal on April 1 challenging the order, saying it had been passed without giving them an opportunity.

The Anti-Sterlite Unit Agitation Committee had also launched a series of agitations against the plant and shops in the town remained closed for a day following a call from the committee.

The Supreme Court had on April 2 asked Sterlite Industries to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for polluting the environment through its plant and to pay the amount over three months from that day to the District Collector of Tuticorin.

The tribunal appointed a four-member committee on April 18 to inspect the factory to undertake a study of the plant and submit a report on April 29.

The committee is led by IIT Professors T. S. T. Sai and Leigib Philip. They are being assisted by Sterlite General Manager (Health, Safety, Environment) A. Sumathi, and Additional Chief Engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board Mohan Naidu.

Courtesy: Business Line

CIL invites bankers to assist in investing mining biz abroad

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New Delhi: State-owned Coal India Thursday invited merchant bankers to assist the PSU firm in its venture of investing in prospective coal business opportunities overseas.

The development comes close on the heels of a Parliamentary Panel pulling up the maharatna firm for making no headway in acquisition of coal resources abroad.

“Coal India Ltd (CIL) invites expression of interest (EoI) for empanelment of internationally-reputed merchant bankers/investor banker for facilitating CIL to set up thermal coal mining business overseas,” the company said.

The government had earlier said that CIL has proposed an ad-hoc provision of Rs 35,000 crore for acquisition and development of mines abroad by 2017.

Of the proposed amount, “Rs 25,000 crore has been kept for acquisition and development of coal blocks in other countries like South Africa, Indonesia, Australia, USA, Columbia,” according to an official statement.

The remaining Rs 10,000 crore has been allocated for exploration and development of two allotted coal blocks in Mozambique during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) besides creating logistic infrastructure there, it added.

The Standing Committee on Coal and Steel in its report tabled in the Parliament this week observed that for the development and acquisition of coal resources aboard, Rs 4,000 crore is reported to have been kept as an adhoc provision during 2013-14.

The Committee expressed concern that against the adhoc provision of Rs 6,000 crore and Rs 5,000 crore during FY’12 and FY’13, respectively, CIL did not make any headway in acquiring coal mines overseas and that no amount was utilised for the purpose during fiscal 2011-12.

“…Early acquisition of coal resource abroad will help in overcoming the shortage of coal…CIL should accord highest priority to this proposal and pursue the same vigorously,” the Parliamentary Panel said.

courtesy: zeebiz.com

3 lakh tribals to get land: CM

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Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday said nearly three lakh landless tribal families in the State would get land by the end of the 12th Plan period.

Launching an ambitious plan that envisages conferring land titles on every tribal household in the State under the Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood Project (OTELP) at the SC, ST Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) here, the Chief Minister said out of 30,000 tribal households, which have been identified under a pilot project, 18,000 have already received pattas for both homestead and agricultural land.

Based on success of the pilot project, programme is now being scaled up to cover all 118 tribal sub-plan (TSP) blocks. Minister for Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Lalbihari Himrika expressed gratitude towards the Chief Minister for his decision to extend  project to all TSP blocks.

Realising that land is crucial for food security and sustainable income, Government has launched World Bank assisted Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) in collaboration with Landesa (Rural Development Institute) in 30 blocks of seven districts to ensure land to all in 1056 programme villages during 2011.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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