May 2012

The changing nature of the Exclusive Economic Zone

When the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into force in 1982, it made significant changes to the world map. Previously, people measured territorial sea as 3 miles (4.8km) seaward from the coastal state’s baseline, this zone was then increased to 12 miles.

In addition, UNCLOS introduced a new concept, known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is a prolongation of coastal states’ rights. The length of the zone is significant, since it covers up to 200 miles seaward from the baseline. According to UNCLOS, all living and non-living resources within the water column, including those on the seabed and the subsoil beneath the zone belong exclusively to the coastal state.

For those states with long coastlines, this zone became especially significant as a national asset as well as frequently the main source of income.

Apart from giving economic benefits to coastal states, the EEZ concept also ended the debate on its status as a sui generis — neither territorial sea nor high sea. However some people argue that the EEZ is principally the high seas within which the coastal state has certain economic rights.

Conversely, some regard the EEZ as the coastal state’s property while acknowledging the rights of other states, hence any dispute over “rights unassigned” (residual rights) should be in favor of the coastal state. The discrepancy regarding residual rights escalates when it relates to politically sensitive or strategic matters such as military activities.

While the issue remains unresolved, a few states have acted unilaterally, diverging from the original EEZ concept. In fact, UNCLOS stipulates, “no reservations or exceptions may be made,” yet in reality, some states have passed their own national legislation to temper the UNCLOS’ articles.

Green tribunal asks MoEF to make public info on projects

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 report and 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".

Now, coastal vulnerability is classified

Y. Mallikarjun, May 17, 2012

A large extent of Kancheepuram district and parts of Chennai along the 1,000 km-long Tamil Nadu coastline have been classified as “very high risk” areas in relation to future sea-level rise.

At least 6.38 per cent of the Tamil Nadu coastline has been bracketed as “very high risk,” seven per cent as “high risk” and the rest at medium and low risk.

In Andhra Pradesh, a stretch of 37 km (7.51 per cent of the total coastline) between East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts has been classified as very high risk.

This classification emerges from a comprehensive ‘Coastal Vulnerability Index' (CVI) Atlas brought out by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).

Using data from satellites, simulated models, tide gauges and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) of the United States, INCOIS prepared this Atlas, which determines the relative risk to coastline due to future sea-level rise.

“For the first time, such an Atlas has been done at the national level,” said T. Srinivasa Kumar, Head, Advisory Services and Satellite Oceanography Group, INCOIS, Hyderabad.

The Atlas, containing as many as 156 maps, covering all Indian coastal areas on 1:100000 scale will be useful to planners of coastal infrastructure and those involved in disaster mitigation.

Based on seven physical and geological parameters, the Atlas has classified the areas along the coastline in terms of very high risk, high risk, medium and low risk to future sea-level rise.

The seven parameters used are: tidal range, wave height, coastal slope, coastal elevation, shoreline change, geomorphology and historical rate of sea-level change.

50 fisherfolk to join work at shipbuilding yard today

After withdrawing their week-long strike, the first batch of 50 fisherfolk belonging to Light House Kuppam panchayat in Pulicat, will be joining work as unskilled labourers on a contract basis from Wednesday, at a private shipbuilding yard cum port.

Environment Minister B.V. Ramana, who is in-charge of the Tiruvallur district, convinced the fisherfolk who had been on strike for over a week recently. They were demanding jobs, as their livelihood has been affected due to developmental work in the area.

Mr. Ramana told The Hindu that as and when job opportunities came up in the companies, the fishermen would be considered. “Several people including the Tiruvallur Collector, 14 village heads and I sat and convinced them that the Chief Minister has their interests at heart,” he added.

Next week, a meeting of companies and fisherfolk will be convened by the Industries Secretary.

Fishing villages the new dumpyards

Are you tired of complaining about your garbage not being cleared every day? Take a look at some of the fishing villages, the beaches, open drains and at times even the sea — all of which have become new dumping yards. Villagers say they have no other option but to dump here, as the Chennai Corporation and the local bodies in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram are indifferent to their problems.

K. Pachai, a resident of Tiruvottiyur's KVK Kuppam said that they dump garbage along the boulders of the sea wall. “At times, women throw garbage into the sea. But it is not a frequent practice. When it comes to fishing hamlets, everything including lighting to sanitation takes a back seat. Repeated complaints to the councillor and Corporation only go unheard,” he said.

At Oorur Kuppam in Besant Nagar, a request to lay sewer lines had led to a delay in the laying of tar roads. “Conservancy staff members do not go to the mud roads that are closer to the sea as they say their tricycles get caught in the mud. Garbage is also dumped in the sand and also in the kuccha channels that carry grey water to the sea. When beach clean-ups happen, we find it very difficult to clean the sands,” said K. Saravanan a resident.

A resident of Doomingkuppam, K. Velan said that since their area was not visible to the outside world, they were being ignored. “The Corporation only takes care of the affluent who know to complain and write letters. We live with the stench and garbage. ,” he said.

Chennai gets warmer by the year

With each passing year, the city's expanding concrete jungle is adding to heat radiation. The maximum average temperature has shot up by 0.6 degree Celsius over the past three decades.

According to data from 1981-2010 analysed by the Meteorological Department, the number of hot days experienced in May is on the rise. Residents felt the intense heat in the 1960s too when the mercury level went beyond 40 degree Celsius. But, the trend prevailed only for a day or two during the month. Now, residents suffer the scorching heat for nearly a week, officials said. The situation has worsened in the past decade. During the '80s, the hot weather did not last as long as it does now

The city's average temperature for May has gone up to 37 degree Celsius. Though it is only a slight increase compared to the past three decades, it has a substantial impact on the weather, said Y.E.A. Raj, deputy director general of meteorology at the Regional Meteorological Centre.

Global warming and increased heat retention in urban areas owing to rising population and the growing number of vehicles are also cited as reasons for the rise in average temperature, Mr. Raj said.

However, the department continues to use the weather data from 1971-2000 to forecast weather patterns. The average maximum temperature derived from this period is 36 degree Celsius for Nungambakkam and 37 degree Celsius for Meenambakkam.

The department is awaiting data from National Data Centre, Pune, to incorporate it into daily weather forecasting.

Free masons to handover houses today


In an initiative to provide home for the homeless under a tsunami relief scheme, Grand Lodge of India has constructed 74 houses and a community centre at a cost of Rs. 1.37 crore at Anna Nagar (East Pallam), coastal hamlet near Kanyakumari.

Free masons came to the immediate help of villagers post-tsunami by providing boats and fishing implements, said its past deputy regional grandmaster and project in-charge V. Ramachandran Nair

He told The Hindu that the community centre with built-up area of 9,000 square feet was constructed at a cost of Rs. 55 lakh and had been handed over to the villagers. Later Rs. 59 lakh was spent for construction of the 59 houses, with the beneficiaries bearing 50 percent of the cost of each dwelling. Again the Grand Lodge of India granted financial support for constructing 15 houses for poor people.

Balram Biswa Kumar, Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons of India, will inaugurate these facilities on Saturday, in the presence of Regional Grand Master of Southern India R. Sushil Raj. Many prominent people of Kanyakumari district and free masons from different places were expected to participate in the function, said Mr. Ramachandran said.

Building livelihoods

Annie George, CEO of Nagapattinam-based Bedroc, talks about the work she does to give a firm foundation to the lives of the people in the district

When a tsunami struck the Indian coast on December 26, 2004, little did Thiruvananthapuram-based Annie George imagine that it would completely change the even course of her life. Among many Indians who wanted to go beyond words of sympathy and financial help were Annie, a rural management expert, and her husband, Satish Babu, currently director of International Centre for Free and Open Source Software.

“Satish and I drove down to Nagapattinam on the east coast along with Amarnath Raja, my former colleague in Milma, and my son, Anand, on December 29 to see what kind of help we could render. It was a tragedy on a scale we had not seen before. Bodies were beingpiled into trucks and there were mass burials and funerals. The entire system had collapsed But the district administration rose to the occasion and was efficiently coordinating relief work.”

Since Satish was then working with the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), members of which were familiar with the coastline and the lives of the people there, the volunteers from Kerala were able to start working immediately with the help of members of SIFFS.

While Satish quickly put up a website to coordinate donations in cash and kind that were pouring in, Amarnath had a computer that coordinated the work of volunteers of non-governmental organisations who were arriving in droves to Nagapattinam, one of the worst hit by the tsunami.

“But then I had no clue that I had taken a one-way ticket to Nagapattinam,” reminisces Annie during one of her fortnightly trips to the city where Satish and their son continue to stay.

Sea wall to rein in coastline

The Water Resources Department has constructed 25 metres of sea wall along Ennore Expressway near Nettukuppam to protect the fishing hamlet from further sea erosion. Last week, the beach lost 30 metres along the coastline.

There has been a delay in laying a 100-metre-long sea wall due to lack of boulders. There are not enough quarries, an official said.

“We get only six loads of boulders daily while we need 20 loads to complete the work in 10 days,” he said.

The sea wall at Nettukuppam has been incomplete since work first began in 2004. Back then, paucity of funds was the reason for the delay.

The sudden erosion of the coast in Nettukuppam is not an isolated incident. Fishermen from Kadalore Periyakuppam in Kancheepuram district reported that 30 metres of beach vanished overnight on Friday, a day before the full moon, about the same time as the Nettukuppam erosion.

S. Mahesh, a fisherman, said a wall built to protect the fish landing centre being built at Periyakuppam had also been damaged. “The sea has been rough the last week and we have not gone to sea since then. About two metres of sand was washed away after Thane cyclone exposing the base of the protective wall,” he said.

“It might be a localised phenomenon. We are not sure what caused it. We are studying both incidents,” said a source in the Fisheries Department.

However, sea erosion is not new to the East Coast. With ports coming up everywhere, accretion and erosion of sand have been happening since the 1970s. Sea erosion in north Chennai worsened after the construction of the Chennai Port.

According to WRD sources, so far some 350 hectares of land have been lost along the Chennai coast in the past four decades.

IIT-Madras’s geo-tubes to check coastal erosion in Andhra Pradesh

 CHENNAI: They are the new coastal protectors and appear like giant tubes along the sea-shore.