April 2014

Bay of Bengal: a Hotspot for Climate Insecurity

 We can now add climate change to the dangerous mix of security threats facing the Bay of Bengal region, argues Andrew Holland. But the dangers aren’t just confined to the area’s littoral zone. China’s dominance of the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau also complicates the region’s access to fresh water.
By Andrew Holland for Oxford Research Group (ORG)
This article was originally published August 10 2013 by the Oxford Research Group’s Sustainable Security blog.

There is no region of the world that faces more threats from climate change than South Asia. Of particular concern is the littoral surrounding the Bay of Bengal, including the Eastern Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha, Bangladesh, and coastal Burma. This region is uniquely vulnerable to a changing climate because of a combination of rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, and uncertain transboundary river flows. Away from the seashore, China holds the high ground in the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas, and complicates the geopolitical picture further by acting as the source of the region’s fresh water.

Kerala to seek amendments in Coastal Regulation Zone Act

 THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Kerala government today said it would seek amendments to the Coastal Regulation Zone Act brought by the Centre, taking into consideration the difficulties faced by people, including fishermen living in the coastal belt.

Minister for Information and Culture K C Joseph told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the difficulties of people in these areas were discussed in detail and it was felt that changes are needed in the CRZ act due to the special circumstances ..

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‘Save the Turtle’ project launched

Kanyakumari District Forest Officer T. Ritto Cyriac on Sunday released Olive Ridley hatchlings on Kanyakumari beach.

The Forest Department has developed a turtle hatchery on Rajakamangalam beach. About 1,000 eggs were kept safely in the hatchery. Kanyakumari district has a coastline of 65 km dotted with 52 fishing villages.

Olive Ridley turtle used to nest on more than 30 beaches in the district, uninhabited by humans three decades ago. Owing to population explosion, human interference, construction of groynes, acceleration of fishing activities, use of the banned purse seine nets, explosion of trawlers with nets, severe pollution of seas, unplanned beach tourism and construction activities bordering on seas, Olive Ridley population has drastically dwindled.

Olive Ridley is classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I of CITES and is included in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

Coastline scarred

Hyderabad: The North Andhra coast is being rapidly denuded of its heavy mineral sand (HMS) by politicians and companies working hand in glove.

Praveen Prakash, the then chairman of AP Mineral Development Corporation, had written to the state government on February 23, 2011, to cancel the joint venture agreement with Bothli Trade AG citing violations of the agreement. But the state government took no action in this regard. Instead, Mr Prakash was transferred out of the APMDC.

Mr Prakash had pointed out that in some cases there are no competitive bids, and listed 13 specific agreements including with Jindal, Anrak, Trimex and Bothli Trade AG (now in question).He highlighted how rules have been flouted and estimated that APMDC would earn an additional Rs 11,049 crore if the contracts are renegotiated.

Civic activist E.A.S. Sarma has also been raising objections for the past five years, but consecutive governments have stuck to the agreements and given approvals and licences, flouting the rules.

Currently, the state has granted three mining leases for these heavy mineral deposits over 809 hectares, and two prospecting licences over 4,000 hectares to different companies.

APMDC has applied for mining leases covering 15,659 hectares and entered into an MoU with Bothli Trade AG, Switzerland, to establish a heavy mineral separation plant as well as 2,50,000 MTs of value-added products with an investment of about Rs 4,600 crore.

APMDC also signed a joint venture agreement with VV Minerals, a Chennai-based company for Ilmenite minerals namely Synthetic Rutile and Titanium Slag, with an estimated outlay of Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000 crore. APMDC is awaiting approval from the Centre to grant the mining leases which in turn will be sub-leased to the above SPV.

Relocate Cheyyur power plant, say naturalists

 Members of the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) on Friday appealed to the government to relocate the proposed 4,000-MW power plant and a captive port to an alternative location from Cheyyur in Kancheepuram district.

Ravi Chellam, vice-president, BNHS, said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee claimed that “migratory birds are found to be negligible’’ in the lagoon area. However, a joint study by the MNS and BNHS revealed that the lagoon had a rich birdlife.

The study revealed the presence of 77 species of water birds including resident, seasonal, migrants and winter migrants. It also further said that eight out of 42 endangered species of birds of India were found in the lagoon.

Several declarations made by the authorities to obtain environmental clearance were found incorrect. The environment impact assessment study submitted to the Ministry said there were no reserved forests, mangroves or sea grass beds within 10-km radius of the proposed site. Contrary to this Palaiyur Reserved Forests were part of the lands being acquired for the power plant, observed Dr. Ravi Chellam.

K.V. Sudhakar, president of the MNS, said the Yedayanthittu estuary and Odiyoor lagoon were the two estuaries in that area, which received inflow from several freshwater sources and flow into the Bay of Bengal. They supported a magnitude of flora and fauna, besides play an important role in regulating the flood water flows and maintaining fish potential of the region.

The BNHS and MNS members warned that the proposed power plant and captive port would directly and indirectly harm the estuarine ecosystem, adjoining habitats and the rich water bird population.