November 2014

Chennai beached by garbage, debris

CHENNAI: A month from today will mark a decade since the tsunami devastated the country's eastern shoreline, including the city's coast, and vast parts of South Asia, killing more than 2,30,000 people. If the tsunami were to strike now, the impact would be much more catastrophic because of environmental violations that have wrecked our beaches, environmentalists say.

From Marina to Neelankarai, 14 acres of beach has been lost due to violations by Corporation of Chennai, according to a report by NGO The Coastal Resource Centre. Although various stakeholders including government bodies, private agencies and the public played a part in the degradation of the city's beaches, the report says the corporation is the "main violator or abettor".

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman and K Saravanan, a fisherman from Urur Kuppam, highlighted 21 places where the corporation flouted Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, from the southern bank of Cooum at Marina to Periya Neelankarai, a 12km stretch.

Violations include dumping of construction debris and building illegal roads and concrete structures. The fallout of these violations are manifold, from harming the nesting of the endangered Olive Ridely turtle, to soil erosion and altering of the natural course of the beach and sea. The offences are systemic and expose an intent to develop more infrastructure on the shore and create a coastal thoroughfare that will wreak havoc on the ecosystem, Jayaraman said.

In its most recent violation, the corporation astoundingly stuck plastic chairs in a concrete base, ostensibly to make a 'viewing gallery' for visitors to gaze at the sea in Neelankarai. Before that, corporation workers erected streetlights on the shoreline in Palavakkam. All of this was done without the knowledge of top officials in Ripon Buildings. The corporation has now removed the chairs and lampposts.

10 coastal economic zones to be developed

NEW DELHI: In its move to revive the NDA's flagship Sagarmala (string of ports) project, conceptualized during the Vajpayee regime, the government will develop 10 Coastal Economic Regions (CERs) in the influence zone. The project would need Rs 5,000 crore in investment in the next five years, which will include modernization of ports and efficient evacuation besides developing CERs.

This will come from gross budgetary support to create infrastructure and other facilities that would make these zones the hub for manufacturing and economic activities and to take such activities to the hinterland.

While this will primarily focus on major and minor ports, government is also pushing its other agenda to attract private investment in the inland waterway sector that can provide a competitive alternative to road and rail network for cargo transport. The shipping ministry on Wednesday said 17,300 km of inland waterways will involve an investment of at least Rs 1 lakh crore in the next 5-10 years. While government will invest around Rs 20,000 crore, the rest will come from the private sector.

Sources said after the presentation on Sagarmala project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the shipping ministry to focus more on port-led development. "The committee of secretaries will now take a decision on the government investment needed for Sagarmala and then it will be put before the PM," said a government source. This will cover 300-500 km of coastline, sources said.
While Sagarmala will play a key role in the "Make In India" initiative, minister of state for shipping Pon Radhakrishnan said the inland waterways can reduce investment needs in rail and road infrastructure, reduce transport costs and enhance intra-regional trade.

A month after Hudhud mayhem, Vizag gets back into stride

It was on Oct. 12, exactly a month ago as on Wednesday that the cyclone Hudhud hit the city with a fury never imagined before and left it gasping for breath. The city has regained normalcy to a great extent, even though the scars are very much visible on the landscape, with most of the greenery gone, and the three crucial sectors - industry, tourism and fisheries - suffering both short-term and long-term losses.

The damage is yet to be assessed in its totality, and a nine-member central team is visiting the city from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27 for the purpose. The industry and the fisheries sectors are getting back on their feet. The major units such as the Visakhapatnam steel plant, the HPCL refinery, the Hindusthan Shipyard and others have resumed production and the smaller units are also on the same path. The Visakhapatnam port has resumed cargo-handling normally, in spite of long-term damage to some of its structures such as the break-water, and the private Gangavaram port has also revived operations even though it has also taken a hit.

The cyclone has shaken the public of the port city and also woken the authorities to the necessity for using modern technology such as underground cables for power transmission to make it more cyclone-proof. "The cyclone has hit the city after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement in the USA that Vizag will be one of the three smart cities in the country to get US aid. Now it is for the State and Union Goverments to take long-term steps to face such calamities in future and to recover much faster than it has done after Hudhud," says B. Gopi, the CEO of Sankhya Technologies, a software company.

GIS-based system set to make decisions on green clearances easier

As part of its ongoing efforts to streamline green clearance process for industrial, infrastructure and power projects, the Centre will on Tuesday launch a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based online support mechanism which will help the environment ministry in taking informed decisions quickly.

The GIS-based decision support system will contain high resolution satellite imagery and ground details of forest cover, types of green patch, eco-sensitive zones of protected areas, biological richness and landscape.

The system, which will be launched by environment minister Prakash Javadekar, will make the forest clearance system less cumbersome and transparent.

Developed by the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI), the system will also have details on notified tiger corridors, other important migratory corridors, habitat of rare and endangered flora and fauna amongst others.

The availability of all data at one platform will help the authorities in getting all relevant information with click of a mouse. It will also form a platform for day-to-day monitoring of patrolling & surveillance for forest cover and wildlife.

“The data will also help in calculating net present value (the amount paid for diversion of forest land for non-forest works) of the forest cover. Once we have all information at one platform, any person can calculate the NPV in few seconds”, said an official, adding that non-availability of such data on time generally delay many clearances.

The GIS-based decision support system will be the third high-tech platform to smoothen the green clearance processes. The other two are: online environment clearance (EC) system that has been working since June and the online forest clearance (FC) system that was launched in July. A similar system for mining clearance will also be launched soon.

Study needed to look into Hudhud damages: experts

Cyclone Hudhud that hit the city three weeks ago ripped open homes, blew away roofs and broke the glass facades. As the life begins to return to normal many residents are now finding new damages.

The frames that were ripped off the walls may have left superficial damage to the walls, but then there are anchor bolts that are missing raising doubts whether the damage was just superficial. Some of the residents are now sceptical about the capacity of the existing structures facing another cyclone.

The insurance companies that are grappling with claims from institutions and corporates on the damages have an unenviable task of running a comprehensive study of the structures as many claims are for restoration and not just for repairs.

A preliminary survey shows no visible structural damage, but a thorough study requires more information like the structural designs, a researcher in civil structures who visited the city has said.

The government should engage the Structural Engineering Research Centre of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India to do a comprehensive structural analysis of the existing buildings and structures and suitably modify the designs of the upcoming projects, says Gopi Bulusu of Gravity 2.0.

Given the nature of the calamity and the damage inflicted upon an urban agglomeration, there is a need for a scientific study by an establishment like the SERC to minimise losses and downtime for businesses, he adds.

The buildings like the Sunrise Startup Village appear to have some structural damages. There is a need for a comprehensive study and structural validation of the buildings on the Hills of the Rushikonda IT Park as they bore the brunt of the cyclone.

Climate change: IMD focuses on special training for fishery groups

Listed among countries in the zones where the effect of climate change would be high on fishing, India is making efforts to train the fishery industry to adapt to climate changes and its depleting effect on the fishing industry, and taking the lead is the India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s Agrimet department in the city.
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)’s recent conference suggests promotion of weather and climate information for the agriculture and food security in countries like India, where it paints a bleak picture for the fishing industry owing to climate change.
Maharashtra has the third largest fishing sector in India with a majority dependent on inland fishing. Budhaji Damse, who heads a fishing cooperative in Pune, said paucity of catch in reservoirs in the area are giving fishermen a tough time.
That climate change has been making its effect felt in the fishing industry in Maharashtra, as seen in the decline in production. The projected production for 2013-14 for Maharashtra is 583.37 thousand tonnes, a decrease from 595.24 thousand tonnes in 2010-11. The sector in the state contributes almost 1 per cent to the GDP and is 4.6 per cent of agriculture production. Over the years, there has been a significant shift towards inland fisheries and now 63.30 per cent of fishing industry is from inland sources.

Cyclone Hudhud hit at 279 kmph

Visakhapatnam: IMD has dubbed Hudhud that wrecked havoc in Vizag last month as only a very severe cyclonic storm, but the peak wind speed that was recorded by anemometers at Vizag port’s container terminal and a few vessels on the outer harbour on October 12 was 279 kmph or 80.5 metres per second.

A cyclonic storm that surpasses wind speed of 220 kmph can be termed as, super cyclone. Recordings of the same anemometers suggested that average wind speed of Hudhud was 220 kmph. Anemometers are used at the container terminal to take precautionary measures depending on the wind speed.

While the IMD uses a three minute averaging for the sustained wind to categorise a cyclone, 279 kmph or 80.5 metres per second speed was recorded for a few seconds in three spells during the day. Meanwhile, A fresh cyclone may be brewing in the Bay of Bengal if the current cyclonic trough over southwest Bay of Bengal close to Andhra­north, and the Tamil Nadu coast becomes active.