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State grants NOCs for GM field trials

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State grants NOCs for GM field trials

The state government has granted no-objection certificates (NOC) for “confined field trials” of genetically modified (GM) crops to over 15 applicant entities. The permission has come in the wake of a report by Anil Kakodkar Committee recommending grant of permission with certain restrictions. The committee had been constituted by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

The permission was made necessary by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in June 2012 after Bihar and Kerala chief ministers had reportedly claimed it should be necessary since agriculture is a state subject. “This despite there being no provision for such a permission being a pre-requisite under the Environment Protection Act,” said a senior official.

NOCs to trials in the state were issued by the agriculture department earlier this month to over 15 applicants. They, however, put many conditions, such as the applicant entity, private or government, will have to conduct trials on the premises of some other company or organisation. For instance, Nagpur’s Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has been asked to conduct trials on the fields of Punjabrao Krishi Vidyapeeth (PKV), a state agriculture university. They will also have to get their research and development facilities examined by Agriculture Department officials and state agriculture university experts.

To verify the genetic engineering aspect of the trial, the company has to get verification of trait and gene nucleotide sequences at CICR lab, Nagpur. The companies will have to get actual physical verification of the presence of gene and expression of traits at CICR, said a stipulation. The applicants will also have to get intellectual property rights issued and protocols verified at CICR.

After confined field trials are over, the applicant entity will have to submit a report on trait field efficacy evaluation, net economic trait value, ecological and environmental impact assessment, micro and macro economic impact assessment vis-a-vis farms and trade, social impact assessment and technology sustainability issues to the monitoring and impact assessment team constituted by the Agriculture Commissioner.

Centre apprehends fresh ethnic disturbance in State

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Centre apprehends fresh ethnic disturbance in State

GUWAHATI, Nov 28 – The Central government is apprehensive about the possibility of fresh ethnic disturbance in Assam and directed the State government to take effective steps to deal with the situation, particularly in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts(BTAD) because of widespread kidnappings and extortions by members of the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Assam Tribune that any major ethnic disturbance gives the country a bad name internationally and the ethnic clashes in the BTAD area last year, in which more than a hundred persons were killed, created ripples all around the country with mischief mongers taking full advantage of the situation by using the social media. As the deterioration of the law-and-order situation in the BTAD area has the potential to lead to ethnic disturbance, the Government of India is worried about the situation. In fact, both the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister expressed their concern over the situation in the recently concluded meeting of the head of the police forces of the States.

Sources said that the militants belonging to the NDFB (S) has stepped up activities in the BTAD area, particularly in the areas bordering Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. According to records available with the police and security agencies, the militants belonging to the outfit were involved in as many as 45 kidnappings within this year and the actual figure may be much more as there are instances when the kidnapped persons paid money to the militants without informing the police.

Sources pointed out that the outfit was involved in some very “high profile” kidnappings, including the abduction of the NHPC general manager AK Agarwala. But in most cases, the kidnapped persons could not be rescued and the only success story of the police being the rescue of NHPC general manager.

What is more disturbing is that the NDFB (S) has been targeting even small time businessmen, petty shopkeepers, etc., and of late, people belonging to a particular community became the major targets of the militants. Sources said that the NDFB (S), which is maintaining cordial relations with the Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) and the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) and the outfits, launched several joint operations, particularly kidnappings.

On the reports of movement of ultras in Bhutan, sources said that according to information available with the security agencies, movements of small groups were reported. But the militants do not have full fledged camps in Bhutan and only a few transit camps on the side of rivers were noticed.

On the strength of the NDFB (S), sources said that around 60 to 70 members of the outfit are within Assam, while around 50 are with the leader of the outfit IK Songbijit in Myanmar.

Hydro fraud: Two small projects on paper, one large project on site

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Reposted from SANDRP Blog – Hydro fraud: Two small projects on paper, one large project on site

Author – -Damodar Pujari (damodar.sandrp@gmail.com) with inputs from Parineeta Dandekar

24.75 MW Mouneswar + 24.75 MW Basavanna ‘Small’ Hydel Projects = One large HEP

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), hydel projects between 2-25 MW are classified as Small Hydel Projects (SHPs). These projects are exempt from Environmental Clearance, impact assessment, public consultation or any monitoring from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), receive subsidies from the MNRE and apply for Carbon Credits from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Though the concept of encouraging small hydel projects as sources of decentralized energy, also supplying off grid power seem welcome, the happenings on ground are vastly different. As these projects are excluded from environmental governance, there are several examples of fraudulent Small Hydro projects, which exploit the lax governance mechanism to hoodwink all concerned.[i]

One such recurring fraud is showing two separate projects on paper, in order to avoid environmental scrutiny and avail subsidies meant for SHPs, while building one single big dam on site, clubbing the two projects. Projects like Perla and Shemburi by Greenco in Mangalore or Maruthi Gen projects in Sakaleshpur (http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report-maruti-power-gen-s-hydel-project-an-environmental-disaster-1617237), all in Karnataka Western Ghats, are two example of this fraud.

One more case has now come to light, this one from Gulberga district in north Karnataka when I visited the project area recently. Although called by two different names, 24.75 MW Mouneswar Small Hydel Project and 24.75 MW Basavanna Hydro Project are operating from a single dam/diversion weir across the KrishnaRiver, just downstream Narayanpur Dam. As such, the project should be considered as a single 49.50 MW hydel project and should undergo immediate environmental, social and legal scrutiny and further assessment. We tried to conatct the officials of the company several times for questions related to the projects, but we got no response.

The Projects:

24.75 MW Mouneswar and 24.75 MW Basavanna SHEPs are built across river Krishna in Benchagaddi village of Shorpur taluk of Gulberga district in Karnataka.

The projects have also applied for Carbon credits under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Basavanna Hydro Project has been registered as a Clean Development Mechanasim (CDM) project with the UNFCCC on 28th December 2012 and its crediting period has been fixed as 1st March 2013 to 28th February 2023[ii]. 24.75 MW Mouneswar SHP has applied for registration[iii]. SANDRP has sent comments against registration of this project.[iv]

Shockingly, both projects have requested separate registrations, hiding the fact that both will be using the same dam, the same intake/power canal and the same tail race canal.

Project design documents (PDDs) submitted to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Board (UNFCCC – EB) mention the same coordinates as the project location:

Latitude- 16°19’52 “N

Longitude- 76°33’48” E

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Figure 1. Mouneswara and Basavanna diversion weir_ Google Earth

PDDs of both the projects do not even mention the other project, clearly misleading the UNFCCC. Not only do the PDDs show same coordinates, the lengths of the intake canals are exactly the same at 2771 meters, so are the RCC conduits and penstocks, because we are talking of the same project!

Carbon Credits are supposed to be provided to projects only when they prove beyond doubt that they will be economically unfeasible without such support. However, in this case the expenses of dam, power canal, and tail race tunnel is shared and hence the costs will be lowered, the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of the projects will be higher than what is quoted in the PDDs and they will be profitable even without additional ‘pocketable’ finance from the UNFCCC in the name of Clean Development! (IRR claimed in the PDD is 9.14% for Mouneswar SHP and 11.38% for Basvanna SHP.)

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Figure 2. Common Dam/Diversion weir for Mouneswara and Basavanna HEPs. Photo- SANDRP

Same Proponent, different names

Interestingly, project proponents of both the projects are shown to be different in respective PDDs. For Mouneswar Small Hydel Project it is Lakshmi Jalavidyut Limited and that for Basavanna Hydro Project it is Krishna Hydro Energy Limited.  However, the registered office of both these firms is the same! This address also belongs to Penna Cements, Hyderabad, which is a player in Mini hydel projects in Karantaka. Penna Cements and its subsidiary Pioneer Genco already operate two SHPs, each of 24.75 MW capacity across Cauvery in Karnataka.

From the ground

When SANDRP visited the project sites, the officials were hostile to any entry in the premises or even near the site.

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Figure 3. Dam/Diversion weir . Photo- SANDRP

The dam/ diversion weir built by the projects is inside the KrishnaRiver bed and diverts the water through a power canal which runs approximately 3 kms downstream. The power canal takes most of the water from the river rendering the river dry in lean season.

Farmers told power canal as irrigation canal:

When I talked with the farmers in the downstream, they told me that they were under the impression that this canal is meant for irrigation, like Narayanpur Dam canals in the upstream (about 26 km). However, Benchagaddi village which is situated next to the tail race canal of the project not allowed to take even its drinking water from the canal.

There have been strong protests from the villages to this project as the diversion has dried the river bed and more than 300 irrigation pumps of villages like Bechagaddi, Hosur and Yedalabhavi used for irrigating paddy are now useless. Karanataka Bhagya Jal Nigam had also taken serious exception to the projects and had ordered a stop work notice.[v]  (It subsequently issued an NOC, without providing any resolution to the issues raised by it earlier.)

The Benchagaddi village which is right next to the power canal experiences power cuts lasting 18-20 hours daily. Around 40 farmers from this village lost their lands for the canal. Rates of compensation given were Rs 25-85 thousand per acre.

Shockingly fraudulent Local Stakeholder Consultations!

The projects have claimed to have organised ‘Local Stakeholder Consultations’ about the CDM mechanism, which is mandatory when applying for CDM credits. PDD claims that Mouneswar project organised stakeholder consultations on 21st December 2011 and Basavanna project organized it on 26th September 2011.

Now see this, both PDDs mentions exactly the same people asking exactly the same questions with exactly the same answers being given!! It is absolutely clear that these meetings and these reports are fake. Amazingly, UNFCCC could not see through this clear fraud.

Local Development through Small Hydels?

As per the villagers, affected families were promised a job in the power plant although none of them received any jobs there. Even the JCB and truck operators are from other states. Security guards too aren’t from the same village.

Figure 4. Area submerged upstream of the dam or diversion weir

Figure 4. Submergence area in the upstream of the weir

Figure 5. Tail canal near Benchigaddi village and the construction work of power house (Source: Google Earth)

Figure 5. Tail race canal near Benchigaddi village and the construction work of power house (Source: Google Earth)

Unaddressed impacts of Submergence:

In Geddamari village near the diversion weir, around 15-20 families lost their lands for construction of the dam. Bill collector (Talathi) of the village told SANDRP that around 50 acres of land was SUBMERGED due to dam (diversion weir) construction. He further added that farmers whose lands were submerged, have not received the compensation as yetThey have been talking with the company and have been verbally promised some compensation, though nothing on paper. Problems in this village too are like Benchagaddi village. Limited drinking water, disturbed power supply etc.

Figure 6. Power houses near benchagaddi village. Photo- SANDRP

Figure 6. Power houses near Benchagaddi village. Photo- SANDRP

Applicable for Environmental Clearance:

As the projects use a single dam and are a single project of 49.50 MW and they qualify for a full environmental clearance process, including an EIA, public hearing, and Environmental appraisal by the state or central EAC and an Environmental Management Plan. However, the projects have illegally escaped all this.

Executive Engineer of Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigam (KBJN) – controlling state authority in case of Krishna River- confirmed, “Both the projects are operating using the same weir .The power houses of two projects are housed behind the same diversion weir. There are three 8.25 MW turbines for each of the projects situated downstream of the same diversion weir.”

According to the Executive Engineer, KBJN has granted NOCs to both the projects and that both of them being fully operational for last 6-8 months. When SANDRP visited the project site, the HEPs were found to be fully operational.

Conclusion:

24.75 MW Mouneswara and 24.75 Basvanna Projects are operating from the same diversion weir, use the same intake canal and same tail race. They are in fact one single project which has fraudulently shown itself as two separate projects. The proponent and the consultants have hidden this fact from the UNFCCC, the MoEF, the MNRE, KREDL, State Pollution Control Board and State Environmental Department. The Local Stakeholder Reports of the projects are a sham. Submergence impacts are still unaddressed.

These issues need to be addressed urgently by all concerned including the MoEF, the Karnataka Government, UNFCCC, MNRE and KREDL. Such frauds are giving a bad name to the all these institutes.

NGT Dismisses Adani’s Plea on Green Clearance Issue

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NGT Dismisses Adani’s Plea on Green Clearance Issue

The National Green Tribunal today dismissed the appeal of Adani-Pench Power Ltd for review of its verdict rejecting the company’s contention that a challenge to the environment clearance granted to its thermal power project in Madhya Pradesh was time barred.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar rejected Adani’s review plea saying the petition challenging the environment clearance (EC) granted to its project raises substantial questions relating to environment and requires to be examined on merit.

Adani had challenged the NGT’s July 11, 2013 verdict by which the tribunal had rejected the company’s objection that the petition filed by activist Medha Patkar against the clearance granted to its project in Chhindwara District of Madhya Pradesh was filed too late. The Environment Ministry (MoEF) had also earlier taken a similar argument that petition by Medha Patkar had been filed beyond the period of limitation.

“The matters in issue in the present appeal (by Patkar) raise substantial questions relating to environment and they require to be examined on merits. All that the Tribunal has done is to hold that the appeal is within time and should be heard on merits.

“The objections raised by the applicant in its review petition are void of any substance and merit and, therefore, deserve to be rejected,” the bench, also comprising its judicial member Justice U D Salvi, said today and listed the main matter for arguments on December 20.

Adani had from the start opposed Patkar’s plea saying environmental clearance was granted and communicated on October 16-17, 2012 while her petition was filed on January 30, 2013 and as such there is a delay of 16 days beyond the period of the stipulated 90 days.

However, the tribunal in its July 11 decision had held that the plea was filed within the stipulated 90 days.

Adani had, thereafter, sought review of the NGT’s July 11 judgement on the ground that the EC had been uploaded on the environment ministry’s website and that Patkar’s plea that the same was inaccessible is an error on the face of the record.

The tribunal, however, rejected the contention in its latest judgement saying, “At the relevant point of time there was no record before the Tribunal to believe that the EC order was downloadable or was accessible to the public at large immediately on and after October 17, 2012.”

“Furthermore, it was brought on record before the Tribunal in a number of cases that the website of the MoEF was defective and downloading of EC orders or other necessary documents was not possible.

“It has come on record that the website of MoEF was not properly functioning and was set right only in June, 2012 in view of the letter dated 5th June, 2012 of the Director, MoEF (Judgement in Save Mon Region Foundation). Further it has also come on record, vide letter dated 26th December, 2012 of the Director, MoEF that it was doubtful whether the website of MoEF was effectively accessible,” the bench said while upholding its earlier decision.

In her petition, Patkar has challenged the legality and correctness of the environmental clearance granted on October 16, 2012 by the MoEF to Adani’s 2×660 MW imported coal based thermal power plant at villages Dhanora, Chausara, Dogawani Pipariya, Hiwarkhedi and Thawriteka in Chaura and Chhindwara taluka in district Chhindwara of Madhya Pradesh.

She has contended in her petition that the EC has been granted to the Adani “in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification of 2006 in an arbitrary manner and it being contrary to law, is otherwise illegal”.

 

SC to hear TN plea for Cauvery board

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SC to hear TN plea for Cauvery board

The Supreme Court will hear a plea filed by Tamil Nadu for setting up a Cauvery monitoring board to implement the 2007 Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award on December 3. 

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam decided to hear the application, also filed in view of Karnataka’s plan to build a hydro-power station at Mekedatu and three reservoirs. 

Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, representing Tamil Nadu, mentioned the matter before the court.

 

 

He said the petition seeking direction to the Union government to constitute the Cauvery monitoring board was in conformity with the decision of the tribunal.

Taking into consideration his plea, the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh, fixed the application for hearing.

The application sought direction for strictly implementing the tribunal’s award contending that the Karnataka government proposed to start new schemes which were not contemplated in the final award to utilise the river water.

It referred to Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 2, pointing out Karnataka’s plan to construct a hydro-power station at Mekedatu.
Three reservoirs proposed near Mekedatu were to be built across the river, which was illegal, besides it would also affect irrigation in Tamil Nadu, the application alleged.

Seeking direction

The plea also challenged Karnataka’s stand that there was no impediment in executing the scheme of construction of a reservoir as the final order has been notified.

“In a federal structure, no upper riparian state can unilaterally interfere with the natural flow of an inter-state river without the consent and concurrence of the lower riparian state,” it said.

The Supreme Court in August refused to pass any order on a plea made by Tamil Nadu seeking direction to the Centre for setting up the Cauvery management board and regulation committee, in view of the bountiful rain during the south-west monsoon.

In its plea filed in March, Tamil Nadu sought direction to the Centre to constitute the Cauvery management board as contained in the final order of February 5, 2007, by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal and notified on February 19 this year.

The court had then fixed the petition challenging the tribunal’s order for hearing in the third week of January next year.

Sikidiri dam gates closed

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Sikidiri dam gates closed

Ranchi, Nov. 27: Power generation in Jharkhand dropped by nearly 100MW today after the water resources department ordered complete shutdown of the dam gates of Sikidiri reservoir, prompting the Subernarekha Hydel Power Station — the state’s lone hydel project — to lie idle for most part of the day.

The order came after water level at the reservoir fell down to 1921.50 feet. Technically, the sluice gates can be opened to release water for power generation only when the water level at the dam rises to at least 1,935 feet.

However, the Sikidiri plant has not completely stopped generation of power and is operating its two units for one-and-a-half hours each in the morning and evening by using seepage water from the reservoir.

“Hitherto, the reservoir gates used to be kept partially open and we were generating over 100MW of power round the clock from our two units. Now, the gates have been completely shut down and hence, round-the-clock power production is not possible,” Bashir Ansari, project manager, Sikidiri hydel, told The Telegraph.

He added that since water was still steeping in through the sluice gates, they were operating the units for a few hours.

“The state load dispatch centre has allowed us to run the units from 7am to 8.30am and 7pm to 8.30pm. We shall continue to generate power as long as we have sufficient water in our canals,” Ansari added.

According to figures released by Eastern Regional Load Despatch Centre, the Sikidiri plant contributed around 0.32 million units of power to the state grid today. The entire power generated is earmarked for the state capital.

The Sikidiri hydel plant, the only one of its kind in the state, started round-the-clock power generation from October 4 after the water resources department ordered lifting of the reservoir gates by one and a half feet.

Though Jharkhand State Electricity Board had demanded that the gates be opened by at least two feet, the state water resources department refused to do so, saying that adequate precautions needed to be taken to ensure that sufficient water was retained in the reservoir for supply of drinking water to the state capital.

Located some 40km from Ranchi to harness waters from river Subernarekha, the two hydel units at Sikidiri have a total installed capacity of 130MW.

Panel to check pollution in Puri

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Under scanner of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Odisha Government has notified an eight-member panel, headed by Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra, which will examine the environmental issues affecting pilgrim town Puri.

The panel will shortly visit Puri and suggest strategies that need to be adopted for controlling the alarming levels of pollution in the town, particularly Swargadwar area as well as Sri Jagannath Temple.

The committee, which comprises Additional Chief Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Department, Secretary and Forest and Environment Department among others, will submit comprehensive remedial measures to the NGT before December 5.

Hearing an application, last month, the Tribunal had pointed out the shoddy environmental parameters of the famous tourist town basing on a report of the State Pollution Control Board.

While the high-level committee will look into waste management, including collection and treatment of sewage as well as garbage and propose its disposal in a time-bound manner, a major task entrusted to it is to evaluate if the local authorities can collect a fee from polluters as per ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.

A major task for the panel is to assess the unauthorised construction along the sea shore and also those falling within 500 metre from the high tide line defined under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). It will also report to the NGT what actions the Government has taken against the illegal constructions in the CRZ zone.

The panel will also assess if stacks can be provided in all cooking chullahs of the temple as well as the cremation grounds so that air pollution is controlled. Similarly, the possibility of establishment of a plant for disposal of bio-medical waste including remnants of cremated bodies will also be analysed by it.

In its report, the pollution board had found that quality parameters of water samples, drawn from Peja Nullah which drains the discharges from Jagannath Temple kitchen into the municipal drain, were way beyond the permissible limits.

Air quality of the town was found to have been affected by the smoke emanating from the cremation ground. Similarly, plastics constituted half of the municipal waste in the town, while sewage collection, treatment and disposal system at Banki Muhan is defunct.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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