December 2013

Sea-change in outlook of fisherfolk post-tsunami

 CUDDALORE: The tsunami that devastated the 61 fishing villages along the 54-km long coastline in Cuddalore district nine years ago on December 26, 2004 has brought about a noticeable change in the outlook as well in the lifestyle of the fishing community.

The coastal people had paid dearly to the tsunami that claimed the lives of 620 people and destroyed several thousands of dwelling units and fishing vessels, inflicting heavy losses on them. It has either fully orphaned or semi-orphaned about one hundred children.

The fisherfolk were rudely shaken by the trail of devastation left behind by the tidal waves which also swept away some of their age-old customs and practices in life.

Pramila, a resident of the Tsunami Nagar at Akkaraigori, told The Hindu that the tsunami in its wake had brought about a catastrophe as well as social awareness among the fishing community.

Education to wards

The fishermen who mostly led a secluded life had started interacting with people from various walks of life.

“In the post-tsunami the predominant thought that has been occupying the minds of the fishing community is to impart quality education to their wards so they could be weaned away from the sea and made to take up good jobs elsewhere” she said.

Her son Pradeep is an engineering student and daughter Mohanapriya a nursing student. Her fellow residents Suseela and Dharani also vouch for her observations. It is pertinent to note that the 93 children who had either lost both of their parents or one parent have turned a new leaf in their life.

Seva Illam

Given shelter in the Seva Illam, their needs, including educational pursuits have been taken care of by the Social Welfare Department. Social Welfare Officer R.Bhuvaneswari told this correspondent that the Illam was keeping boys till they attain 14 years of age and girls till 18 years.

MoEF committee gives clearance for Indian Oil's LNG project in Tamil Nadu

 HYDERABAD: A committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests has given Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to Indian Oil Corporation for setting up of 5 million tonne LNG terminal at Ennore in Tamil Nadu.

The Expert Appraisal Committee, which met last month, said all the issues raised in the public hearing held in September were addressed by the PSU.

"The EAC noted that the Project Proponent has assessed all likely impacts due to the project and arrived at a suita ..

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Speedy clearance of proposals for industry projects in forests under new draft rules

 The proposed amendments also make the sanction of forestland for industry relatively easier

The forest clearance process for industry projects is likely to be overhauled and eased soon, with strict timelines being forced for every step taken in the State or Central government to deal with proposals to use forestland.

The Hindu accessed a draft of the proposed changes in the forest clearance rules that the Environment and Forests ministry is near finalising. Forestlands are diverted for non-forestry purposes under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the process is governed by rules under the law. The ministry now proposes to amend the rules substantially to ensure that each concerned office or department is bound by time limits to clear the proposal. But, the proposed amendments also make the sanction of forestland for industry relatively easier.

Sources in the ministry said the proposal is under the consideration of the environment minister at the moment. The also prescribe that action must be taken against those who delay processing the applications.

The draft of the proposed amendments to the forest clearance rules The Hindu accessed were sent to State-level officials for their comments. It could not be ascertained if all of these have been sent verbatim for the minister’s approval. But a source confirmed that the principle amendments in the proposal and the focus remained to usher in strict deadlines.

Under the proposal, a deadline has also been fixed for settlement of tribals’ rights under the Forest Rights Act for areas that industries want to set up projects in. Under existing rules, settlement and extinguishing rights of tribals is mandatory before giving clearance to industry, but no time limit is prescribed. Consent from each affected gram sabha is mandatory in these cases.

Houses for cyclone-hit ready

 Of the 90,000 concrete houses sanctioned by the government for people affected by cyclone ‘Thane’ in Cuddalore, a total of 2,751 units have been completed, Collector R. Kirlosh Kumar said.

At a function to disburse bank loans amounting to Rs 1.06 crore to 523 beneficiaries , he said Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had sanctioned one lakh units, including 90,000 units for Cuddalore and 10,000 units for Villupuram.

Each house would be constructed at a cost of Rs 1.25 lakh and the expenditure would be shared by the government (Rs 1 lakh) and the beneficiaries (Rs 25,000). Mr. Kumar also said that about 87,397 concrete houses were under construction. Of 11,108 units allotted for the Cuddalore Panchayat Union, 383 had been completed.

Freeze opening of new industrial units: environmentalists

Environmentalists, local community and consumer activists have faulted the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for having lifted the moratorium on opening new industrial units and expansion of the existing units in the SIPCOT Industrial Estate here. They argue that when the pollution indicator in the industrial estate is hovering at a critical level there is no justification in lifting the moratorium.

The commitments made by the industrial units and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to keep the pollution level within the permissible level remains only on paper, while the ground reality is different. Therefore, they also seek closure of those units that fail to conform to pollution control norms. These demands were made by the representatives of the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring (SACEM) and the Consumer Federation Tamil Nadu (CONFET). M.Nisamudeen of CONFET and T.Arul Selvam of the SACEM told presspersons here today that based on a study on the extent of air, water and land pollution in the industrial estate the Central Pollution Control Board and the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, had jointly prepared the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI).

The CEPI had put the scores for Cuddalore as follows: -- 2009 – 77.45 points, 2011 – 78.41 points and 2013 – 70.12 points. They emphatically said that any value above 50 was clearly indicative of a critically polluted area.

The mandatory action plan prepared by the SIPCOT Industries Association and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board in 2010 proclaimed that all steps would be taken to peg the pollution level at 54.69 points.

State govt takes note of dumping on mangroves

 Nitin Yeshwantrao,TNN | Dec 6, 2013, 11.18 AM IST

THANE: Over two months after the destruction of mangroves near the Saket creek area, the state government on Thursday finally sent two officials to ascertain the facts of the complaints of illegal reclamation by Thaneites.

Sunil Desai and Wajid Malik, the two revenue officials visited the Saket grounds near Thane Central jail for spot inspection. The officials also summoned the complainant, activist Dayanand Nene, who along with deputy mayor Milind Patankar surveyed the area.

"We took the officials around and showed them how the creek land was being illegally filled up with debris dumped from trucks. The once-thick mangrove plantations were buried under the debris. We told them that they should recommend construction of a boundary wall which will prohibit any further damage to the mangrove plantations,'' said Nene.

A resident of Saket complex, the activist had sometime in September raised an alarm about the concrete and brick rubble being systematically dumped on the mangrove plants. Though the entire area is notified under the Coastal Regulation Zone, the operation to illegally reclaim the land continued unabated for close to three days then.

"There was a sudden movement of heavy vehicles and dumpers loaded with debris in our area. More than 100 trucks emptied their load on the mangrove plots,'' added Nene.

The mangrove plot is adjoining an illegally-built football ground that was used by the police for hosting games last year. Subsequent to Nene's protest, a Shiv Sena MLA too asked what action was taken on local residents' complaints.

Vizhinjam: panel for eco-clearance

 The Expert Appraisal Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for projects relating to infrastructure development and Coastal Regulation Zone has recommended the accordance of environmental clearance for the Rs.5,000-crore deepwater container transhipment port proposed to be set up at Vizhinjam, near here. At a press conference here on Tuesday, Ports Minister K. Babu said the State could expect the formal clearance from the Ministry, based on the recommendation of the committee, soon. He said Vizhinjam International Seaports Ltd. (VISL), the government entity overseeing the efforts to set up the project, would immediately invite requests for qualification for the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract and the private player who would operate the port.

The project is designed on the landlord model, under which the basic port infrastructure, estimated at Rs. 2,600 crore, would be the responsibility of the State government and the port superstructure, entailing an investment of Rs. 2,400 crore, of the private player. Mr. Babu said the VISL would submit its application to the Centre for viability gap funding for the project.

The expert committee has stipulated 17 conditions on the project proponent while recommending environmental clearance. The VISL has been directed to obtain “Consent for Establishment” of the project from the State Pollution Control Board under the Air and Water Act and a copy of the same should be submitted to the Ministry before the start of any construction work on the site.

The VISL has been directed to carry out intensive monitoring of the shoreline changes that the construction of the port might lead to and report the details to the Ministry every six months. The committee said the project proponent should compensate, as per Central and State government norms, the owners of tourist resorts in the project area who would have to be evicted.