August 2016 News Digest

Coastal Law Got a Skewed Review – and Now, an Opaque Revamp: In June this year, the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change disclosed the report of the committee constituted to review the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011. The environment ministry shared the report after eighteen months of its completion and that, too, on being directed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to do so. While the ministry’s reluctance to make the report public flouts the principles of democratic decision-making, the process of CRZ review in itself has been opaque, obscure and one-sided.

Reliance Jio gets green nod for AAE-I subsea cable project: NEW DELHI: Reliance Jio Infocomm has received environment clearance for building the Indian part of Asia- Africa-Europe One (AAE-1) submarine cable system at Mumbai, entailing an investment of $6 million. AAE-1, the largest next generation subsea cable system spanning around 25,000 km and linking South Asia to Africa and Europe via the Middle East, is being constructed by a consortium of 17 global service providers. The Indian part of the project will be implemented by Reliance Jio. 

US report advises Tamilnadu to dump Cheyyur power project: CHENNAI: The 4000 MW coal-fired Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) would be a financial disaster for the consumers, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd (TANGEDCO) and the State government, said a report by the US-based Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). It suggested that Tamil Nadu abandon the Cheyyur project and focus on eliminating the transmission and distribution losses. It said the issue was not the availability of power generating capacity, but the grid transmission and distribution losses. For the year 2014-15, the Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses were 24.4% which was much higher than the global grid average (6-8%).

A tsunami of debt is building up in Tamil Nadu – and no one knows where it is headed: G Venkatasubramanian trots out some astonishing numbers. Over the last 15 years, he and his fellow researchers at Pondicherry's French Institute have been studying debt bondage among families in 20 villages in Tamil Nadu. Half of these settlements are in the coastal district of Cuddalore, and the others are in the adjoining district of Villupuram. Their study is throwing up some puzzling changes in how much these families borrow – and how.

CRZ rules causing undue hardship for the coastal communities : Pinarayi Vijayan: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said people, especially fishermen living in the coastal areas of the state, were facing problems due to restrictions in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification issued by the Centre. The state would prepare an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project taking into consideration the issues faced by the coastal people and seek the Centre’s approval for its implementation, he said after inaugurating a two-day workshop on ‘Coastal Protection and Management, in Thiruvanathapuram.

Fisheries department survey to find coastal erosion-prone families: Thiruvananthapuram: The fisheries department has initiated a survey to find out the families residing within 50 metres from the high tide line (HTL) in the district prior to the massive rehabilitation project being planned by the department. HTL refers to the line on the land up to which the highest water line reaches during the spring tide. 

Over 1.30 lakh climate change deaths predicted in India, says Oxford University study: Over 1.30 lakh deaths due to climate change have been projected in India with changes in methods of food production, a study conducted by the University of Oxford revealed. The Lok Sabha was informed about the report on Tuesday."The study conducted by the University of Oxford on 'global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change, a modelling study..., projected 1.36 lakh expected climate-related deaths in India due to changes in food production based on probabilistic estimates," Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.

New meta-analysis shows engineered hard shorelines are a threat to ecosystems: Shoreline hardening, defined as the installation of structures to prevent erosion or provide flood protection, is a common practice worldwide. Over 22,000 kilometers of shoreline have been hardened in the United States alone, and many major coastal cities, such as Hong Kong and Sydney, have 50% or more of their shorelines protected by artificial structures. With growing urban populations and rising seas, these trends are expected to continue. However, despite a growing chorus of conservation practitioners advocating for more nature-based approaches to coastal protection, the science on shoreline hardening's effects has failed to keep pace.

Prawn farms hit due to outbreak of white spot disease: An outbreak of white spot disease has caused huge loss to shrimp farmers in Nagapattinam district. According to reports, the disease, which has no cure, was first spotted in a shrimp farm at Avarikadu a few days ago. It has rapidly spread to other farms in the neighbouring localities along the coast of Nagapattinam district. This has resulted in many farmers destroying the farms leading to a huge loss. Shrimps raised on more than 500 acres are said to have been affected. It is said that each farmer would suffer loss to the tune of Rs.1.5 lakh per acre.

Expert team takes stock of erosion in Puri beach: PURI: A two-member technical team from Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IITMadras), led by Oceanology Professor Ram Kumar, on Sunday visited Swargadwar site, near Mangala river confluence, to examine the impact of high tide on Puri beach. The beach is being gradually eroded by the surging sea waves for the last few days. Inspecting the sites, Prof Ram Kumar said after completion of the ongoing dredging work on old mouth of Mangala river, the storm water will get its natural outlet and the situation would improve. Erosion in Swargadwar beach is a normal phenomenon.

24.8cr project to protect Baina coast: Panaji: The water resources department (WRD) will spend Rs 24.8 crore to protect Baina's coast from soil erosion. The department is undertaking anti-sea erosion and protective measures over a stretch of one kilometre at Kante, Baina in Vasco. Coastal protection measures for sea erosion will also be undertaken at the beaches of Vaddem in Dabolim and Velsao and Arossim in Mormugao at the total cost of 11.89 crore. WRD has already undertaken sea-erosion measures at Keri, Anjuna, Calangute, Siridao, Calangute and at Sunset beach, Betalbatim, spending a whopping 40.91 crore. Concrete tetrapods were laid at Keri while anti-sea erosion and flood protection walls were built at Baga and Anjuna.

Workshop on coastal protection concludes: Thiruvananthapuram: Fisheries minister J Mercykutty Amma on Thursday criticized the careless attitude of local residents and cited it as one of the reasons behind increasing number of sea-related accidents. She said the residents including fishermen go to the breakwater at Perumathura all days a year though it has been designed in such a way that entry is permitted for only 300 days. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala in his valedictory address demanded for definite measures to protect the issues of the livelihood and rehabilitation of the fisher folk. He also said there were lapses on implementing Rs 1,600-crore tsunami rehabilitation package in the state.

Fishermen village bears brunt of coastal erosion: Bhubaneswar: Podampetta, a fishermen's village in Ganjam district, is ravaged by high sea tide during the monsoon leading to large-scale coastal erosion. Located about 145 km from here near the Bay of Bengal, the village goes through this churn every year. In 2012, more than 20 houses were washed away. Later, the state government decided to relocate the families of the victims to safer places. The government shifted 102 families to a high land near Podagada village under the Ramagarh gram panchayat in Ganjam block. This year, high tide has not only raised concern in Puri, but also in Podampetta. G Bairagi, a villager, said they are living in constant fear of their houses getting away. "I have seen 30 houses of my relatives getting destroyed in the high tide. My house is just a few metres away from the sea. Fishing is our livelihood. We can't leave this place," he said.

'Ecosystem canaries' provide early warning signs of catastrophic changes to ecosystems: 'Ecosystem canaries' can provide early warning signals of large, potentially catastrophic, changes or tipping points in ecosystems, say researchers. Like canaries that coal miners used to check for poisonous gasses deep underground, ‘ecosystem canaries’ are species that are often the first to disappear from a stressed ecosystem. Their vanishing can be linked to changes in the functioning of ecosystems, which can serve as a warning that a tipping point is approaching.

With incomplete details of water bodies, Chennai's master plan is a recipe for yet another disaster: Eight months after the heaviest rainfall recorded in 100 years in Chennai flooded large parts of the city, killing more than 300, damaging property worth several thousand crores and leaving thousands stranded at home without electricity, food or drinking water, the citizens of Chennai are restless. With the monsoons fast approaching, there is grave concern over the rivers filled with silt, dysfunctional canals that are meant to pump out rainwater and relentless encroachment on water bodies. The Chennai Municipal Development Authority now requires each project to have an indication of the prevailing flood line – the highest level up to which water rises in the monsoons – and take all necessary precautions in the design of basements, said Durganand Balsavar, the principal architect of Artes-Human Settlements Development Collaborative in the city, who also works with the Master Plan Committee. But with the urban planning authority’s unwillingness to take note of smaller waterways and channels, the prospect of another disaster this year looms large.

Green min finds basic flaws in Mumbai’s coastal road plan: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation may be pushing for quick environment clearance to get its showpiece coastal road project off the ground, but the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has pointed out basic shortcomings that could further delay the project. In a letter dated July 22, the MoEF said the coastal road proposal recommended to the ministry by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has several deficiencies - the lack of a disaster management plan, issues with some environment impact reports and no approval from the state and central pollution control bodies and the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) maps.

Who built road over Muttukadu lagoon? MUTTUKADU (KANCHEEPURAM):In what could be an attempt to encroach upon the Muttukadu brackishwater lagoon, an ecologically sensitive area 30 km from Chennai on the East Coast Road, a mud road 12 ft wide and 100 m long has mysteriously come up across the water body. Allegedly built by a group with real estate interest, the road provides direct access to bungalows, owned by popular personalities and built dangerously close to sea water (as close as 20-30 m) in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. About 64 sub-divisions are created in survey number 114 spreading across 32 acres. The location has Muttukadu lagoon on one side and the sea on the other, giving an island look.

NGT tells State to probe coastal violations at Muttukadu lagoon: CHENNAI: The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the State government to probe the alleged coastal violations in the eco-sensitive Muttukadu lagoon and surrounding areas, where several luxury bungalows were built and a road was laid in the middle of the lagoon. Taking note of an Express report, the NGT questioned the authorities on how bungalows are allowed to be constructed so close to the sea violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. “The photograph in the article clearly shows a road laid across the lagoon, providing access to these properties. We want to know whether any permission is given to construct these bungalows. If yes, on what grounds the permission is granted,” the bench comprising Justice Jyothimani and expert member P S Rao said, asking special government pleader Manohar to submit a report on September 14.

Sagarmala: The peril in adding more pearls: In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Sagarmala Project for the development of India’s ports and assured that it would be the gateway to India’s prosperity. At the time, he had said, “The development of India’s ports is directly linked to creation of job opportunities, boosting industrial development, increasing exports, and resulting in the overall improvement in the economy.” While it is quite possible that this ambitious project, if successful, may lead to job creation, excellent connectivity, revenue generation and as they say, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, the question is—will it really lead to overall prosperity?

Climate change increases risk of earthquakes – and India, Bangladesh are among the most vulnerable: An earthquake is building up under the Gangetic delta, which could possibly be linked with the rapid rise in global temperatures leading to climate change, according to Kolkata-based geographer Sujib Kar. “The relationship between temperature rise and rise in a number of earthquakes is evident from two sets of data documented over a period of time,” Kar told “If you look at the number of earthquakes of 5 or more in Richter scale from 2001 to 2015 in earthquake-prone areas, you will be able to comprehend the dynamics. This has been the period when the rise of global temperature was phenomenal.”

NDMA suggests 10-point plan to tackle floods: An expert panel constituted by the National Disaster Management Authority has issued a 10-point plan to tackle floods. “The plan has been issued to all cities ahead of the monsoon season. The action plan follows last year’s (devastating) Chennai floods,” Kapil Gupta, Urban Flooding expert from IIT Bombay and member and convener of the expert group for NDMA guidelines on urban flooding told The Hindu.Some of the key points in the plan include establishment of urban flood /disaster management cell in each city with technically qualified person as nodal officer, efficient cleaning of drains and holding ponds, before the start of the monsoon.

NGT reserves order on grant of EC to Adani's Vizhinjam Port: New Delhi, Aug 29 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal today reserved its judgement on pleas seeking withdrawal of environment clearance granted to the Vizhinjam International Seaport, being developed by Adani Group in Thiruvananthapuram. The tribunal was hearing pleas by Thiruvananthapuram- based environmental activists, Wilfred J and V Marydasan, seeking the green panel's intervention to direct that coastal areas throughout the country, including the Vizhinjam coast, be "preserved and no activity be undertaken which would damage such areas."