UAL sues Bihar for anti-asbestos stand

Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) has sued the Bihar government over chief minister Nitish Kumar’s remarks about asbestos. The chief minister had promised to “puncture construction of hazardous asbestos factories in the fertile state”. While stating this, he had endorsed a statement issued by Awadhesh Narain Singh, chairperson of Bihar Legislative Council, who said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer”.

For over two years, residents of Chaksultan Rampur Rajdhari village in Vaishali district have been protesting setting up of a hazardous white asbestos plant on agricultural land under the banner of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC). Patna-based Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch, besides Left and Socialist parties, have expressed solidarity with the people’s struggle.

The district administration had ordered UAL to stop construction after a public demonstration by residents of Mahadharna village on June 14, 2012. Construction restarted on December 16, 2012. However, work was stalled again after protesters blocked the Mahua-Samastipur road for nine hours near their village in December-end.

On February 13, KBJBJC activists met Nitish Kumar and informed him about the plant. He promised to take action against the company and expressed anger over Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) granting No Objection Certificates to such a plant. At the chief minister’s behest, BSPCB officials met the residents at his office. They also visited the factory site on March 4 to review the case.

Polluter’s case

In response to the state government’s anti-asbestos stance, UAL filed a case on March 4, this year in the Patna High Court. The case is scheduled for hearing on April 4, before Justice J N Singh.

But the licence of UAL has still not been cancelled. “The company has managed to retain the licence because it has the support of deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar,” alleges Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance.

Ajit Kumar Singh, convener of KBJBJC, says UAL has implicated the protesters in several police complaints. “For instance, they set afire one of their machines and lodged a police complaint, alleging it was done by us. I have video records to prove that the machine was burnt by UAL officials,” he says. KBJBJC activists have given a memorandum to the chief minister, seeking withdrawal of three fake cases lodged in Mahua police station.

Singh says there are three more asbestos plants that have been set up in the state, at Giddha and Bihiya villages in Bhojpur district. The plant at Giddha is operating behind a BEd College, while residents are protesting against it. “In Bihiya, Ramco Industries is operating two asbestos plants amid protests from people although it has permission for only one. A memorandum has been submitted to the district administration and the BSPCB in this regard,” Singh says.

Call to ban asbestos

While addressing health experts, scientists, trade union leaders, academicians and civil society leaders at a conference on environmental and occupational health on December 24, last year, Singh, chairperson of the Bihar Legislative Council had said, “Buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer”. The conference adopted a Patna Declaration, urging the state to ban use of asbestos products.

The same day, Justice Rekha Kumari of Patna High Court had said at a public lecture at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies that companies which wilfully expose human beings to cancer-causing fibers of asbestos, must be made criminally liable because right to health is part of right to life. Over 50 countries have banned use of asbestos.

Listed hazardous

Chrysotile asbestos, or white asbestos, will soon be included in the UN list of hazardous substances under the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade at the sixth meeting of Conference of the Parties to be held between April 28 and May 10 this year.

The Chemical Review Committee of the Convention had recommended listing of white asbestos after the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that asbestos is a hazardous substance, harmful to human health and environment, and that cannot be used safely in a controlled manner.

India announced its position on June 22, 2011, the third day of the fifth Conference of Parties of the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva, amidst standing ovation at the plenary meeting. Listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention or PIC list will make it mandatory for exporting countries to share information on the hazards of the mineral with the importing countries. It may be noted that India is the chair for a smaller group to discuss and influence the position of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and other countries opposing the listing.

Canada was one of the key suppliers of chrysotile asbestos, which opposed its inclusion in the PIC list of hazardous substances. The purpose of the PIC procedure is to allow countries to make their own informed decisions on future imports of hazardous substances. The chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention include pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or are severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by two or more Parties and which the Conference of the Parties has decided to subject to the PIC procedure.

Canada barely uses asbestos in its own country. It has been spending millions to remove asbestos from the Parliament buildings. However, despite knowing the cancer-causing nature of asbestos, Canada continues to ship some 150,000 tonnes of it to countries like India each year.

At the ninth International Asbestos Disease Awareness Conference during March 22-24, this year in Washington DC, Arthur L Frank, chairperson of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University in Philadelphia, expressed concern over India’s current unchecked dependence on chrysotile asbestos, reflecting on multiple expert studies projecting a spike in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in Asia by 2030. Frank, who is a visiting professor at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, said: “What we can expect is very predictable—an absolute catastrophe of death and disease and it is all preventable.”

South Asian countries give sanitation charter to SAARC

MPs launched sanitation campaign in Kathmandu to addresses sanitation woes


Parliamentarians from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the UK, along with international charity, WaterAid, and other development organisations launched the South Asian Regional Campaign on Sanitation in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 19. About 16 members of parliament from South Asia and UK handed over a citizens’ charter demanding universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene services by 2030 within the post 2015 development framework to the SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.

They also presented the charter to eight SAARC directors, representing all member countries, calling on the governments to work collectively under the association to adopt and present a common position on the inclusion of targets for access to water and sanitation to the UN General Assembly. “Through sanitation campaign you are doing extremely great job. This is a noble cause and I am gracious that you are presenting citizens’ charter to SAARC,” said Saleem, praising the initiative.

A dignity march was also organized to launch the campaign. It was attended by thousands of community members, members of parliaments, civil society organization, disabled people, children, journalists and women to show solidarity with the one billion people in the region who do not use improved sanitation and called for action to save the lives of half million children being wasted due to diarrohea and preventing sexual assault on women not having adequate sanitation facilities.

Whilst there has been considerable progress in South Asia, over a billion people still don’t have access to basic sanitation and around 700 million practice open defecation. Diarrhoea caused by unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene is the second biggest killer of children under five. A huge percentage of people, 69 per cent in Nepal, 66 per cent in India, 63 per cent in Afghanistan, 56 per cent in Bhutan, 52 per cent in Pakistan, 44 per cent in Bangladesh, are denied access to improved sanitation.

The charter called upon governments to spend at least 1 per cent of their GDP to achieve universal access to sanitation, enable monitoring of this expenditure and include a separate budget line for sanitation within national budgets. It also demanded elimination of all forms of manual scavenging and dignity and equality for the sanitation workforce, access to sanitation in all households, schools, health centres, work places, public buildings and public spaces, inclusion of specific measures to increase community participation in planning, implementation and management of sanitation services and improved transparency and accountability.

It urged donors to prioritise and considerably increase financial allocations for sanitation, focusing on the most off-track countries with low domestic resources and called for an increased investment in sanitation programmes and infrastructure in rural areas with special emphasis on marginalised and excluded communities. It also emphasized on increasing the share of grants in total aid to enable countries to focus on basic sanitation services in poor and rural areas.

Before handing over the charter, parliamentarians, including Danasari Anasuya, Rahul Kumar and Binod Kumar Singh from India, held deliberations for three hours and resolved to work collectively for improving sanitation. They adopted a common statement agreeing to persuade governments to increase sanitation financing, calling their political parties to enshrine human right to sanitation and committed to increase the share of their development fund to sanitation.

They also demanded recognition of sanitation as a legally enforceable fundamental right for human health, dignity, empowerment and development. The charter sought the development of a participatory multi-stakeholder monitoring mechanism for annual reporting against clear indicators for poor, marginalised and excluded groups, including people with disabilities, women, children and older people. It also asked the countries to address the stigma of impurity and pollution ascribed to sanitation, especially to menstruation and to those providing sanitation services, and ensure that services are provided in a gender-, age-, disability- and culturally- sensitive manner, consistent with human rights and dignity.

India to push for more heavy water

The Government is proposing to set up additional streams of production of Heavy Water.

However, location of the additional facility would be based on techno-feasibility studies, the minister of state in the ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions and in the Prime Minister’s Office Shri V Narayanasamy gave this information in reply to a written question in the Lok Sabha just a day before Union Budget 2013.

India’s nuclear program requires a steady stream of heavy water, which looks and tastes like ordinary water but is used to run reactors that make plutonium. Feasibility Studies, including techno-commercial assessment for setting up additional stream for production of Heavy Water in the existing plants have been commissioned. No funds have been allocated for the purpose.

Production from the proposed additional streams may commence in about five years, after final approval of the project. Details of direct and indirect employment likely to be generated from the new stream can be assessed only on finalisation of the project.

India has not only mastered the complex technology of heavy water production making it self-reliant, but also exports high quality heavy water to countries like Republic of Korea and the United States, said former ALN Rao, Chairman and Chief Executive, Heavy Water Board. Heavy Water (D2O) is a compound of an isotope of hydrogen called heavy hydrogen or Deuterium (D) and oxygen. Heavy water reactors use heavy water as a neutron moderator. “Presently, India is the largest producer of heavy water in the world and is the only country using multiple technologies for its production,” he said.

He explained that development of heavy water process in India happened in three phases. “The first phase (late1950s to mid 1980s) was a period of technology development, the second phase was of deployment of technology and process stabilisation (mid 1980s to early 1990s) and third phase saw consolidation and a paradigm shift towards improvement in production and energy conservation,” he explained. The first heavy water plant was set up in India at Nangal in 1962.

Other Heavy water plants are at Baroda, Tuticorin, Kota, Thal, Hazira Thalchar and Manuguru. The technology for upgrading heavy water was developed at BARC. The current research is directed towards the development of alternative, more cost-effective, technologies for heavy water production, such as hydrogen-water exchange process.

More resources needed for NAPCC: economic survey

Though multilateral efforts on sustainable development and climate change have led to several positive outcomes, says the Economic Survey for 2012-2013 but not without warning that more resources were required to meet targets under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Sustainable development and climate change was introduced as a chapter in the Economic Survey last year for the first time.

A sum of Rs 230,000 crore would be required to meet the targets under the NAPCC, the Economic Survey for 2012-13 has noted, adding that additional steps suggested under the 12th Five Year Plan and other environmental initiatives would require yet more resources.

“The challenge for India is to make the key drivers and enablers of growth; be it infrastructure, the transportation sector, housing, or sustainable agriculture,” it read.

The report warns that though the government will need to deploy public funds to meet the needs of the eight missions under the NAPCC, the global community – the developed countries especially – have failed to so far cough up or commit adequate finances to meet the challenge for the world to fight off climate change and help developing countries achieve sustainable development.

“This leads us to the most vital issue of raising additional resources for meeting the need of economic growth with greater environmental sustainability. India could do much more if new and additional finance and technology were made available through the multilateral processes. There is a case for greater cooperation, action, and innovation, provision of finance and technology for developing countries and institutions and mechanism for capacity building,” it read.

The survey report also critiques the discussions on financing ‘inclusive green growth’ at the G20 forum indirectly. “At the group meetings India has too often found rich countries pushing for private financing of the war against climate change instead of securing public finance. It notes that the group has ‘stark disparities in terms of incomes, stages of development as well as respective per capita emissions of carbon dioxide,” it read.

The chapter warns that countries would find private investments would only be attracted to the market for lucrative green technologies but would be missing from critical areas like adaptation to climate change, which are a priority for poor countries.

The report says, “Considering the large resource requirement arguments in favour of setting up a National Green Fund to finance public and private sector projects aimed at protecting environment in the 12th Five Year Plan objectives have found support.” The survey says the fund could also become the medium to route international finance through.

The survey read, there are also programmes for non-timber forest produce-based livelihood, promotion of organic and low-chemical agriculture, and increased soil health and fertility to sustain agriculture-based livelihoods. These schemes help mobilize and develop capacities of community institutions to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner and their potential can be further developed.

Boost to wind energy, all roads lead to NEast

The wind energy sector heaved a sigh of relief with Finance Minister providing Rs 800 crore for the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy for generation-based incentive (GBI) for wind energy projects.

P Chidambaram said: “The non-conventional wind energy sector deserves incentives.” Clean and Green energy is a priority of the Government but despite cost advantages in labour, land and construction, the consumer pays a high price for renewable energy. One of the reasons is high cost of finance. In order to provide low cost finance, Government will provide low interest bearing funds from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) to on-lend to viable renewable energy projects. The scheme will have a life span of five years, He said.

Last year, Union Budget had been a disappointment for the wind energy sector when it was generating a sizable share of 5 per cent of electricity at the All India level. The sector was looking for a level playing field with the conventional power, but the subsidies for Oil was increased and duty free coal was being allowed.

The GBI, removed from April 1, 2012, has been the demand of the industry. The incentive is basically a grant from the government per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by the wind turbines and is expected to be 50 paise per unit.

For some months now, the wind power sector has been eagerly waiting for some announcement about the GBI, either in the Budget or otherwise. India added 1,199 MW of wind power capacity in the April-January period, compared with 3,200 MW in the whole of the previous year. What was holding back investments was the uncertainty over two key incentives—GBI and ‘accelerated depreciation.’ An investor could avail himself of only one of the two.

Finance minister P Chidambaram, while reading the Union Budget 2013, said that government has decided to set up a road regulatory authority in 2013-14 to address financial stress, construction risk and contract management in the road sector.

“Challenges not envisaged earlier including financial stress, enhanced construction risk and contract management issues are best addressed by an independent authority. Hence, the government has decided to constitute a regulatory authority for the road sector,” finance minister P Chidambaram said while announcing the Budget.

The proposal to set up a regulatory authority in the road sector has been in the offing for some time. The ministry of road transport and highways, earlier this month, had asked the government to re-examine at the proposal.

This move may also be linked to the recent trend of some private companies exiting projects on account of delay in various clearances. It may be noted that most disputes are to do with land acquisition and environmental issues and the role played by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
At present, NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) along with the road ministry awards projects. While NHAI awarded nearly 6,500 km of projects in 2011-12, so far this fiscal year – which has only a month left to end – it has awarded just under 850 km.

The key functions of the proposed regulator are likely to include tariff setting, regulation of service quality, assessment of concessionaire claims, collection and dissemination of sector information, service-level benchmarks and monitoring compliance of concession agreements.
The proposal would go to Cabinet for approval. Overall, it is estimated that the infrastructure sector will need investment of USD 1 trillion (about Rs 55 lakh crore) in the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-17).

Chidambaram also announced 3000 kms of road projects in 2013-14 in various states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.The finance minister also proposed to seek the assistance of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to build roads in the North Eastern States and connect them to Myanmar. “Multilateral Development Banks are keen to assist in efforts to promote regional connectivity. Combining the ‘Look East’ policy and the interests of the North Eastern States,” he said.

He also said that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is being continued in the 12th Plan. The 14,000 buses sanctioned during 2009 to 2012 have made a big contribution to urban transport. He allocated 14,873 crore for JNNURM, as against the allocation 7,383 crore in the current year. Out of this, a significant portion will be used to support the purchase of upto 10,000 buses, especially by the hill States.

Rs 1,400 crore for water purification plants

Ministry of drinking water and sanitation gets Rs 15,260 crore

Admitting that there are 2,000 arsenic-affected and 12,000 fluoride-affected rural habitations in the country, Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced Rs 1,400 crore for setting up water purification plants.

For clean drinking water and sanitation, Chidambaram allocated Rs 15,260 crore to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, as against the allocation of Rs 13,000 crore in the current year.

In the Budget last year, Rs 50 crore was allocated to establish a world-class centre for water quality with focus on arsenic contamination in Kolkata. According to 2011 Census, nearly two-thirds of the households in India now have access to phones and LPG for cooking. But less than half the number of households have access to basic toilet facilities, and over a third do not have access to safe drinking water. About 36 per cent households have to go out of their homes to fetch water and 49.2 per cent defecate in the open. Only 46.9 per cent of India’s 24.66 crore households have toilet facility. Jharkhand tops the list with 77 per cent of households having no toilet facilities followed by 76.6 per cent in Odisha and 75.8 per cent in Bihar.

While 87 per cent of the households now use taps, tube wells, handpumps and covered wells as the main source for drinking water, only 47 per cent have the source of water within the premises. A good 36 per cent households still have to fetch water from a source located within 500 metres in rural areas and 100 metres in urban areas.

Experts had always claimed that government spending on water and sanitation is grossly inadequate. According to the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, government spending under these heads has been on the decline, from 0.59 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 to 0.54 per cent in 2009-10 and further down to 0.42 per cent in 2010-11.

As many as 43 of the country’s 88 industrial clusters are critically polluted while another three are severely polluted, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. Besides, water safety is threatened by natural contamination such as salinity (Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka), iron (Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh), nitrate (Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra), fluoride (Rajasthan, Karnataka, Bihar) and arsenic (Assam, West Bengal, Bihar).

Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of Barak river declared 6th national waterway

Budgetary support of Rs 123 crore for infrastructure on the stretch in Assam


The Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak river in Assam will soon be declared as the sixth National Waterway, announced finance minister P Chidambaram in his budget 2013-14.

He said the minister of water resources will move a bill in Parliament to declare the 121 km stretch as the sixth National Waterway. The minister said preparatory work is under way to build a grid connecting waterways, roads and ports. “The 12th Plan has an adequate outlay for capital works, including dredging, on the national waterways. The objective is to choose barge operators, through competitive bidding, to transport bulk cargo on the national waterways. The first transport contract has been awarded in West Bengal from Haldia to Farakka,” he added.

On February 15, the Union Cabinet gave a nod to the introduction of a bill in the Parliament for declaring Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch as a National Waterway. Since the 9th Five Year Plan, talks have been going on about this and similar declaration of waterways at the Sundarbans and extension of National Waterways from Kollam to Kasaragod in Kerala.

However, it raises a concern that more waterways will be announced even as the five declared National Waterways are not fully functional and suffer from lack of funds and manpower. The Act to declare Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch as a National Waterway is expected to result in unified development of the waterways for shipping and navigation and transportation of cargo to the north-eastern region, particularly in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Union Cabinet has also given approval for preparing projects and schemes for the development of infrastructure facilities on the Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch at an estimated cost of Rs 123 crore with implementation in two phases. The first phase of the project would be completed by 2016-17 followed by the second phase which is likely to be completed by 2018-19.

Chidambaram, in the budget, also declared that two new major ports will be established in West Bengal and in Andhra Pradesh to add 100 million tonnes of capacity. In addition, a new outer harbour will be developed in the VOC port at Thoothukkudi, Tamil Nadu through public private partnership at an estimated cost of Rs 7,500 crore. When completed, this will add 42 million tonnes of capacity. This has irked activists in Andhra Pradesh who say not only is there a high density of notified minor ports along the coast (one every 33.3 km on the coast), but the distance between many of these ports is fairly small. Gangavaram and Vishakapattinam are operational, with a distance of only 14 km between them.

Waste-to-energy plants to get a boost: FM

Scheme to encourage cities, municipalities to set up such projects to get encouragement

To clean up garbage in cities, Finance Minister P Chidambaram mooted the much-debated waste-to-energy plants while presenting this year’s Budget.

“India tosses out several thousand tonnes of garbage each day. We will evolve a scheme to encourage cities and municipalities to take up waste-to-energy projects in Public Private Partnership which would be neutral to different technologies,” he said. He proposed to support municipalities that implement waste-to-energy projects through instruments such as viability gap funding, repayable grant and low-cost capital.

In the 1990s, many waste-to-energy plants were set up in the country. However, most of them failed. Failure of some high-profile projects—notably the Timarpur plant in Delhi—created a lull in their construction. The introduction of Clean Development Mechanism and carbon credits has sparked interest in them again.

There is potential to generate about 1,700 megawatt (MW) energy from urban waste (1,500 MW from municipal solid waste and 225 MW from sewage), and about 1,300 MW from industrial waste, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy states. The ministry is also actively promoting generation of energy from waste by providing subsidies and incentives for such projects. Estimates by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency indicate that India has so far realised only about 2 per cent of its waste-to-energy potential. A market analysis by Frost and Sullivan predicts the Indian municipal solid waste-to-energy market could be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.7 per cent by 2013.

During the Budget presentation, the finance minister also proposed to continue Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme for the textile sector in the 12th Five Year Plan with an investment target of Rs 151,000 crore. The major focus would be on modernisation of the powerloom sector for which he has given Rs 2,400 crore.

To address the environmental concerns of the textile industry and to improve the effluent treatment infrastructure, the finance minister declared a new scheme called the Integrated Processing Development Scheme with an outlay of Rs 500 crore. It will be implemented in the 12th Five Year Plan. An allocation of Rs 50 crore has been made for the scheme for 2013-14.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, wastewater from the textile industry is highly alkaline and contaminated water bodies. It can cause environmental problems unless it is properly treated before disposal. Byssinosis, a chronic lung disease, is commonly observed among workers exposed to cotton, flax and hemp dust.

March to Delhi to save Yamuna called off

The Save Yamuna Padyatra forum, in an attempt to save face over several activists and farmers pulling out of the agitation, decided today to celebrate what they have been calling a betrayal till yesterday.


The protestors, mostly owing allegiance to the Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Yamuna Rakshak Dal, were jubilant today after the Centre’s announcement to release additional water into river Yamuna even when their main demand to release additional water from Hathnikund Barrage was not met.
While a group of protestors waited at the water resources minister’s office to get Centre’s reply to their demands in written, the core committee of the protestors met late at night to chalk out the future of the protest and how it should be concluded. At 10:30 pm, minister for water resources, Harish Rawat, met the protestors camping at Ali Gaon and promised them to release additional water into the river.

“85 per cent of our demands have been met. We demanded water from Hathnikund barrage but the minister pleaded that there is no water in Hathnikund. So, the centre has agreed to release additional 250 cusec water into the Yamuna River from other canals to maintain the flow of the river,” said Mahesh baba, media coordinator of Yamuna Rakshak Dal, said today.
However, the minister’s announcement was just a reiteration of what he had promised the protestors on Tuesday. On Wednesday, before the core committee meeting, Mahesh baba had come down heavily on the Centre’s inaction and informed that the Centre has promised them that extra water would be released but not from Hathnikund.

Before the core committee meet, Radha Krishna Shastri, a prominent member of the group, had said that the government is trying to fool them by reiterating stale promises. “We would not settle for anything less than water released from Hathinikund. If they do not accept our demands, we would continue to protest and move towards Hathinikund,” he said.

A delegation had met ministry officials on Tuesday in New Delhi where their Padyatra from Vrindavan culminated. They put forth two primary demands. First was construction of two canals parallel to Yamuna which would collect and treat waste water from industries and sewage outlets and divert it to fields to meet irrigational needs. The main demand of the campaigners was release of 50 per cent of all the water impounded at HathniKund barrage so that the Yamuna has its natural flow.

The team of ministers the delegation negotiated with consisted Union minister of environment and forest Jayanti Natarajan and minister of water resources Harish Rawat. Even after the late night dialogues on Tuesday, groups of ministers and protestors failed to reach a consensus. The ministry was asked to provide 25,000 copies of the written reply which would be distributed among the people participating in the padyatra and rest to the media persons.

Though the ministry had agreed to the demand for plugging wastewater flow into the river and constructing canals to treat the water, it has sought two years time to fulfill this promise. A time long enough, the protestors fear, to fizzle out the protests. Moreover, they felt there is nothing new in the offer made to construct a canal to intercept the drains in Delhi. There is already a deadline set by Supreme Court for the project.

The Centre had also refused to release water from Hathnikund and instead promised to releaser water from Hasanpur Canal, which, the protestors felt, would not be adequate.
Uncertainty loomed over fate of the movement launched to save Yamuna from pollution with the Centre failing to provide the protestors any concrete assurance. Dissatisfied, the agitators had started mulling return to their home states. The future of the movement was to be decided on Wednesday night after the Centre gives them a written reply to their demands. A member of the forum confided that with the lukewarm response of the ministry, the protestors are losing direction and thinking of calling off the Padyatra.

Meanwhile, the Haryana government had informed the centre and the protestors that the Yamuna water shared by the three states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan is in accordance with the agreement signed in 1994. The agreed quantity of water was already being released into the Yamuna.
The possibility of Haryana agreeing to release any more water into the river seems remote as farmers in Haryana depend on river water heavily for irrigation. The vast expanses of felids survive on canals that divert water from Hathnikund. If the state agrees to release more water into the river, it could lead to widespread confrontation between the farmers and the state.

Mahesh said that though the protest has been called off, 10 people would camp at Jantar Mantar for two months, which is the time the Centre has sought to prepare the project proposal, and sing kirtans. Two of their members would be in the team formed to prepare the proposal for the construction of the canal and also to start the release of additional water.

Delhi govt diverting water to hotels: BJP MLA

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit admits 11 underground reservoirs lying idle because of water shortage

Rising mercury and water scarcity stirred a debate in the Delhi Assembly on March 14 when BJP MLA from Palam, Dharam Dev Solanki, blamed the Delhi government of diverting drinking water meant for residents to rich hoteliers of Mahipalpur.

Solanki’s allegations led to similar statements from other BJP members of the house, leading to an uproar. The Speaker had to adjourn the house for 40 minutes. Scarcity of water in the city remained the main topic of discussion when the house reassembled.

Solanki accused chief minister Sheila Dixit of being biased against BJP members. He said the government has been intentionally interrupting water supply in Dwarka which remained deprived of filtered drinking water for a decade even when proper water connections and pipelines exist. Residents have to depend on water tankers.

Though Solanki demanded an independent inquiry into the matter, Dikshit said a committee constituted by the Delhi Jal Board is already investigating the matter. She said that problem was only on account of non-availability of adequate water due to the lack of supply from Munak canal.

She later admitted that 24 underground reservoirs have been set up in Delhi in the past five years but only 13 of them are operational while the other 11 reservoirs have been lying idle due to lack of water. The present system of underground reservoirs requires too much power and the pressure of water being supplied is not sufficient in areas that are slightly away. In 1989, the Delhi government had estimated that 59 underground reservoirs would be required in the city to ensure equitable distribution of water. In 2000-2002, a study recommended an additional 53 underground reservoirs for the Capital.

Dikshit said the government would not allow any shortage of water and will send water tankers fitted with GPS so that their movement is tracked and there is no water theft. Dixit said the government was planning to commission Munak Canal and make three major water treatment plants fully functional which will help in overcoming the water shortage problem in the city. During peak monsoon, Delhi gets about 40,000 MGD of water, most of which is not used as Delhi’s treatment capacity is about 700 MGD and it doesn’t have any storage capacity. Central Pollution Control Board data states Delhi’s allocation for the monsoon, between July and October is 580 million cubic metres (mcm). Of this Delhi utilises 282 mcm and the remaining 298 cm is allowed to flow down the river.


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