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June 2014

What rubbish: Coastline a mosaic of sewerage, plastic and food residue

 Last week, when the nanauk storm hit the Mumbai coast, sea fronts were littered with plastic, coconut shells, broken glass and food residue. However, much is left unseen. Mumbai flushes up to 80% of untreated sewerage directly into the sea. BMC's ambitious project to dispose treated sewerage in the sea is yet to function fully.

Quality of water along the seafront does not conform to the standards set by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Coastal water quality parameters like Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and faecal coliform are found to be way above prescribed standards.

Environment Status Report of Greater Mumbai prepared by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) 2012 – 13 indicates inadequate system for waste water disposal into the sea leads to the contamination in the sea water causes water borne pathogens and causes severe environmental degradation. The report shows that some species of fish have disappeared in the outfall operation zone.

MPCB covered samples from Gateway of India, Nariman point, Malabar hill, Haji Ali, Worli Sea face, Shivaji Park, Juhu Beach, Versova Beach, Girgaon Chowpatty.

Damodar Tandel, President, Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti, says that in the past 60 years, the seafronts have not been cleaned. "Ideally, the entire110 km coastline should be cleaned each year. Fish don't appear up till around to 3-4 km in the sea. Breeding activities don't happen anymore," said Tandel, adding, "Now fishermen have to go anywhere from 15 km to 150 kms to catch fish."

Living in fear of being washed away

 The plight of coastal residents, who have been facing the threat of loss of their houses due to tidal attacks, have pushed them to the path of agitation. Their demand for adequate coastal protection measures is a long-standing one.

The agitation that is being spearheaded by the Theera Desha Samrakshana Samithi (Coastal Area Protection Forum) in front of the Civil Station here has completed 30 days. The prime demands of the organisation are the construction of sea walls and breakwaters at appropriate areas.

According to Ganga, a member of the forum and a resident of the Purakkad grama panchayat, many of the houses, numbering around 500, in the area have been threatened by the advancing waves. “The Chief Minister had assured measures to address our problems and issue the necessary directions for the construction of breakwaters. However, the district administration has remained non-committal and has claimed that the necessary orders have not been received. The authorities have stuck to their usual stance of delaying the necessary works. We will not relent to the instruction to relocate to relief camps, come what may,” she said.

There are allegations that breakwaters were constructed in an unscientific manner. Fisheries activist Lal Koilparampil said constructions of sea walls made in certain places, including the Arthunkal fishing harbour, were being undertaken without the knowledge that they hinder sediment travel and lead to accelerated sea erosion of the leeward side. The improper positioning of such structures has resulted in unintended consequences. Mr. Koilparampil proposed positioning the breakwater at the northern side of the Arthunkal fishing harbour with a 45 degree slant in the south-western direction. This would prevent any form of destruction due to tdal attack, he said.

Sea erosion strikes fear among residents of Udupi village

 Residents of Kaup-Thottam village in Udupi district have been living in fear owing to sea erosion. The temporary sea wall constructed nearly 20 years ago has collapsed lashed by strong waves. Nearly 200 metres of land has been affected by sea erosion here.

As many as 11 coconut trees were found uprooted by waves on Saturday, while another eight were on the verge of being swept away.

What has alarmed the people is that erosion has started even before the onset of heavy rain.

Kavita Kotian, a homemaker, said erosion had been taking place for the last 10 days. Though the people had made requests to the officials, their response was lukewarm.

“The boulders were placed nearly 20 years ago. We have been demanding for the last two to three years that more boulders be placed. We have been staying here for a long time, and cannot go anywhere else,” she said.

Arun, who works in a private firm, said the waves had already engulfed nearly 50 metres of land. Many people had lost coconut trees. “Though there has been scanty rainfall in the area, the waves have been extremely rough. People fear that there will be severe erosion in July,” he said.

Vanita Poojary, a beedi worker, said the rough waves were sending shivers down people’s spines. Coconut trees were a boon for the poor. “Some people earn their livelihood by selling coconuts. Each coconut gets them Rs. 15 to Rs. 20. With the erosion, they fear their income would be badly affected,” she said.

Mohan Kanchan, member of the Kaup gram panchayat, said temporary sea walls did not offer permanent protection. “Though the government says it will give compensation, nothing has come so far. We want a permanent wall here,” he said.

Residents quiver as giant waves strike fear in them

 Residents of Kaup-Thottam hamlet in Udupi district have been living in fear owing to sea erosion. The temporary sea wall constructed nearly 20 years ago has given away, unable to bear the strong waves. Nearly 200 metres of land has been affected by sea erosion here.

As many as 11 coconut trees were found uprooted by waves on Saturday, while another eight were on the verge of being swept away. What has alarmed them is that erosion has started even before the onset of heavy rain.

Kavita Kotian, a homemaker, said erosion had been taking place for the last 10 days. Though the people had made requests to the officials, their response was lukewarm.

“The boulders were placed nearly 20 years ago. We have been demanding for the last two to three years that more boulders be placed. We have been staying here for a long time, and cannot go anywhere else,” she said.

Arun, who works in a private firm, said the waves had already engulfed nearly 50 metres of land. Many people had lost coconut trees owing to the erosion.

Vanita Poojary, a beedi worker, said the rough waves were sending shivers down people’s spines. Coconut trees were a boon for the poor. “Some people earn their livelihood by selling coconuts. Each coconut gets them Rs. 15 to Rs. 20. With the erosion, they fear their income would be badly affected,” she said.

Mohan Kanchan, member of the Kaup Gram Panchayat, said temporary sea walls did not offer permanent protection from erosion. “Though the government says it will give compensation, nothing has come so far. We want a permanent wall here,” he said.

Rs. 24-crore proposal

Urban Development Minister Vinay Kumar Sorake said on Saturday that a proposal for constructing a permanent sea wall in the district at a cost of Rs. 24 crore had been submitted to the State government.

Climate change to almost triple risk of extreme Indian Ocean weather events

Shifting climate patterns in the Indian Ocean driven by global warming are likely to increase the frequency of “devastating” weather events for much of Australia, Indonesia and eastern Africa, a study led by Australian researchers has found.
While attention has focused on the prospect of an El Nino forming in the Pacific, a similar phenomenon may be under way in the Indian Ocean that could exacerbate dry and hot conditions for large areas of Australia.
Tropical sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean are becoming cool relative to those in the west.
Known as a positive-Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), such conditions typically mean less convection off north-western Australian and reduced rainfall in winter and spring for south-eastern and central Australia. Indonesia also tends to endure drought and bushfires while east Africa gets hit by floods.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest outlook says global climate models are showing “a slight trend” towards a positive-IOD event developing in the spring.
The bureau also continues to rate the chance of an El Nino – when waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific warm relative to the ocean’s west, typically shifting rainfall eastwards away from Australia – at about 70 per cent for this year.
Positive-IODs coincide with El Ninos 70 per cent of the time, and in combination tend to result in dry, mild winters extending into dry, hot summers for most of NSW, Victoria and elsewhere in south-eastern Australia.
“If you get less rainfall, there’s less moisture in the soil, and when there’s less moisture in the soil, when summer comes, it’s easier to generate heatwaves,” said Agus Santoso, a senior research associate of the University of NSW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

Green Tribunal panel visits port development area

A six-member expert committee, constituted by the National Green Tribunal, on Thursday visited the site of the third-phase expansion of the fisheries port at Old Bunder area here.

It was constituted after a case was filed by Octavia Albuquerque and others, to look into the allegations that a creek was filled up in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

The construction of the wharf, initially estimated to cost Rs. 57.6 crore in 2011, was halted with the Principal Bench ordering status quo on the petition in April. In its May 13 order, the Tribunal constituted the committee to inspect the site in question and file a comprehensive report on the issue.

The members include Marine Geology Professor of Mangalore University Rajasekhariah Shankar; Fisheries College Professor Ramachandra Bhatta; a scientist nominated by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; an expert on Coastal Zone Management to be nominated by the Secretary of Ministry of Earth Sciences, Director or his Senior nominee from Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad; and Member Secretary, Karnataka Coastal Zone Management Authority.

The committee is being coordinated by Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Tribunal has said that the report of the Committee should indicate past and present status of the creek and whether the creek or any part thereof has been filled by any process.

The Committee was given six weeks time from May 13 to file its report. The Tribunal, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar has directed that the matter should be listed for directions and arguments on July 9.

The Committee members, who refused share their views with media, held a meeting at the DC office with officials before visiting the site.

130 buildings lack CRZ approval in Navi Mumbai

 As many as 130 buildings, spread over land worth hundreds of crores in the satellite city of Navi Mumbai, were built without Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances, much like the controversial Adarsh tower in Mumbai. The violations were acknowledged by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) in response to an RTI query. This means that the buildings, located on prime land, are illegal. Unable to get a clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) during the UPA regime, the NMMC is still struggling to get them regularised. A second proposal sent in 2013, is pending before the Ministry.

“The matter has been referred to a committee appointed by the planning body which developed the plots, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO),” said NMMC Commissioner A.L. Jarhad.

The Navi Mumbai area located mainly on marshy land, was reclaimed by CIDCO in the 1970s. It got the initial green clearances and handed over portions of the land to NMMC to develop in 1990s.

The 130 buildings in question were built between 2002 and 2011 and fall within the CRZ Zone. However, the NMMC gave them the go-ahead to construct without seeking permission from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), a clearance which had by then become mandatory. Significantly, the Adarsh tower also came up without this crucial permission and now faces demolition.

In his letter asking the MoEF to regularise the buildings, former NMMC Commissioner Bhaskar Wankhede passed the buck to CIDCO. The letter was retrieved through an RTI query by Debi Goenka from the Conservation Action Trust.

Prawn hatchery threat for turtles in Ganjam

 

BERHAMPUR: Wildlife campaigners are opposing alleged construction of a prawn hatchery near Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district as they apprehend a threat to annual nesting of Olive Ridley turtles at the rookery.

"The hatchery plan came as a shock," said Biswajit Mohanty of Operation Kachhap, an organization conducting study on the Olive Ridley. Any construction near the river mouth would have a bearing on arrival of turtles at the rookery, he added. Turtles lay eggs on Purunaband to Kantiagada stretch near the river mouth in February-March every year.

It is the second biggest rookery in the country after Gahirmatha in Kendrapada district. "A private agency has started construction work at Kantiagada, which is close to the river mouth. The hatchery also violates Coastal Regulation Zone rules, which prohibit construction within 500 metre of the shoreline," alleged secretary of Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee Rabindra Sahu. The district administration should immediately stop the work, he demanded.

Collector (Ganjam) Prem Chandra Chaudhary said he was not aware of any construction activity near the river mouth. "No entrepreneur has been given permission for a prawn hatchery at Kantiagada to my knowledge," he said.

Chief wildlife warden S S Srivastav said he would look into the matter and take necessary steps to ensure safety of the turtles.

Divisional forest officer (Berhampur) S S Mishra said, "I have asked forest ange officer concerned to probe the allegation and its impact on mass nesting of turtles."

Official sources said, a few thousand turtles laid eggs at Rushikulya rookery this year, while they skipped Gahirmatha. The wildlife officers are yet to find the reason for the low turnout. Last year, turtles had laid 2.86 lakh eggs at the river mouth.

Heavy metal levels soar at Pallikaranai

 The concentration of heavy metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium continues to increase in the Pallikaranai marsh. This came to light during the preparation of a long-term management plan for the marshland.

The plan, prepared jointly by CareEarth, BNHS and three other organisations, said the concentration of these heavy metals was beyond permissible limits. Various organisations and the Forest department have taken up studies on pollution levels since 2002. The levels of heavy metals in the marsh have been increasing at an alarming rate.

A few years ago, IIT-Madras collected solid waste samples from varying depths in the marsh and conducted an analysis. The results revealed the presence of 408 milligram per kg (mg/kg) of lead as against the permissible limit of 100 mg/kg and 335 mg/kg of chromium against the permissible level of 41 mg/kg. High concentration of heavy metals would cause serious health problems to those living around, the study had warned.

Garbage dumping, release of sewage and disposal of sludge into the marsh were cited as reasons for the increasing metal concentration.

Research on environmental pollution in the past several years in and around the marsh has indicated that due to local topographic conditions, a hydraulic gradient is created, which recharged the ground water in the marsh. This condition facilitated the flow of leachate and hazardous waste from the Perungudi garbage dump towards the central and southern portions of the marsh.

The Conservation Authority for Pallikaranai Marsh entrusted the management plan work to organisations with the active participation of stakeholders. Of the many components that were addressed in the management plan, the issue of mitigating environmental pollution, notably that of water within the marsh, has been accorded immense importance.

Infrastructure policy faces the coastline test

The new government will have to take a call on 18 major infrastructure projects, including a nuclear power plant and two mineral sand projects, that could have a significant impact on the environment along the country's coastline.

Out of 21 projects pending with the Environment Ministry for clearance, 18 are situated in coastal areas and require approval under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. These projects include a nuclear power plant at Bhavnagar in Gujarat, expansion of two heavy mineral sand projects at Srikakulam and Bhavanapadu in Andhra Pradesh, a 220 KV transmission line project in Mumbai, a bridge across Bankot creek in Raigarh district of Maharashtra, a captive jetty plant in Ratnagiri district, a water sports complex in Puducherry, two beach resorts in Chennai, development of a greenfield beach resort in Kutch and a memorial complex at Dandi in Gujarat.

While the UPA government went on an environmental clearance spree earlier this year, it remains to be seen how the new BJP government will deal with these projects. The previous government and its Environment Minister Veerappa Moily cleared 17 coal mining projects while clearance is awaited for one in the same category. Similarly, 25 industrial projects were granted environmental clearance earlier this year, while only four proposals were held back and carried forward to the current government. Whereas 11 mining projects were given the go-ahead by Moily's ministry, three will be considered by the new government.