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September 2014

Demolish unauthorized structures by September 12: Government

 BHUBANESWAR: The state government has asked officials in Puri to demolish structures constructed in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms.

Director, town planning, and vice-chairman of Puri-Konark Development Authority (PKDA) have been asked to demolish these structures and submit a report to the housing and urban development department by September 12.

The government's move followed the National Green Tribunal's July 27 directive, asking the state to submit a report on progress in removing unauthorized structures. The tribunal had sought a detailed report on CRZ violations from the government.

According to norms, no concrete structures should be allowed in CRZ. "No industry should be planned in the zone nor the existing ones expanded. Same goes for hotels and residential complexes," said a senior government officer. In Puri, many hotels and houses have come up in the restricted areas.

Official sources said PKDA has been directed to oversee the demolition. "The planning member will take steps to implement demolition of 26 pending cases and file a compliance report to the government," an official said.

In Puri, 316 structures were found violating the CRZ norms. "We have already demolished 74 such structures," said an officer.

PKDA planning member N P Patnaik said there were several CRZ violations in the town. "We have to look into each case of violation separately and follow the CRZ, 2011, rules. The exercise will take some more time," he said.

The Odisha State Pollution Control Board has also been asked to file a report on revamping Swargadwar (crematorium), which reportedly contributed to pollution in the town. Earlier, the green tribunal had directed the government to review pollution in Puri and take steps to check it. Following the direction, a high-level team visited the town in May.

City’s mangroves at risk, say experts

Stretches of mangroves along the Chennai coast are facing the threat of extinction due to pollution and overgrowth of invasive tree species, researchers caution.

In Chennai, the trees, which offer protection from calamities such as tsunamis, cyclones and hurricanes, are found along the perimeter of Theosophical Society, in a fragmented patch around islands on Adyar river, and at the junction of South Buckingham canal and Cooum river (behind the Madras University campus). They are also found in Ennore and Muttukkadu, say researchers.

K. Ilangovan, a researcher on mangroves, said two species are found in the Adyar river, one in the Cooum and Muttukkadu, and three in the Ennore area. The mangroves in all these areas, which are now in a degraded condition, may have thrived on the coastline half a century ago, he observed.

One of the mangrove species, Avicennia marina , is an exception, which can withstand high pollution levels, said Dr. Ilangovan.

It can tolerate maximum salinity levels in water, and nutrient pollutions. This is one of the most dominant species in the world, which helps create a suitable environment for the regeneration of other mangrove species, he said.

Manifold threats

The first and foremost threat to mangroves, said Dr. Ilangovan, is encroachment by karuvelam , an alien species. Pollution of water bodies, human interference, silting operations in the rivers that restrict tidal flow, and landscape changes are some of the other threats they face, he said.

R. Pauline Deborah, assistant professor, department of plant biology, Women’s Christian College, said the scattered mangrove patches along the water bodies in the city were degraded due to domination of invasive species in the rivers.

Government sets up committee to review environment-related laws

 NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has set up a committee headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian to review environment-related laws and statutes even as it marked the Narendra Modi government's 100 days in power.

In an order issued on Friday, the ministry has specifically listed five laws — the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Forest ( Conservation) Act, 1980, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 — for the committee to look into and suggest amendments to ensure that these laws meet their objectives.

Besides Subramanian, the committee includes former environment secretary Viswanath Anand, retired Delhi High Court judge Justice AK Srivastav and former additional solicitor general of India KN Bhat. It has two months to review the laws and recommend amendments. The ministry has also asked the committee to suggest amendments to the existing laws to reflect the various court orders and judicial pronouncements that relate to these laws.

One such judicial pronouncement is the Supreme Court order in the TN Godavarman Thirumulpad case—the July 2011 judgment on the LaFarge Umium Mining case. In this context, the constitution of an independent environmental regulator will be one of the issues that the committee will have to consider.

In the LaFarge Umium Mining case, the court had asked the government to set up an independent environment regulator for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and imposing penalties on polluters.

Despite the fact that a blueprint for a regulator had been prepared by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh, there was no effort by the government to set it up after Ramesh was moved to the rural development ministry.

Kanyakumari: A bend in the sea brings in the damage

 Fishermen in the tail end of Tamil Nadu in Thoothoor panchayat are fighting a losing battle to safeguard their residential houses being eaten away by sea erosion. During monsoon, houses in the eight fishing hamlets of Thoothoor in Kanyakumari district crumble like a pack of cards - falling prey to ferocious waves that intrude across the coastline incessantly. This year alone, fishers in Thoothoor and its hamlets have lost nearly ten houses after the southwest monsoon started in June. A bus route from Thengapattinam to Neerodi was also washed away by the sea recently.

Antony J Alckyas who is pursuing his priesthood in South Africa is among those who lost their houses. "It was my parents' home where we were raised. The house is more than just a structure. It is no more now," he said. Janio Denistor, a native of the village who works in Chennai, said that there were 25 lanes of houses when they were children. " As we grew up we have seen lane after lane being eaten up by sea and there are hardly six lanes left in Thoothoor village. Soon it will disappear into fading history," he said.

The elders recall it is more than the village that has suffered from sea erosion. Sixty-four-year-old S M Franco, a retired bureaucrat from Chinnathurai hamlet, says that coastal routes, coconut groves, and boat landing beaches are all lying under the sea now. "Sea erosion was always there but it has turned rampant in last five years. We have lost more than half a kilometer width of coast in this period alone", he narrates.

While the ones who lost their houses are migrating to neighbouring villages, people who can raise some money pledging jewels have bought land away from the shore."The truth is that there is no more land for us in this stretch. We may have to go and live among non-fishing communities," said Franco. But that may not be easy for these traditional fishermen.