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Showing posts from September, 2013

Fifty-two villages around Kevadia colony off Narmada threatened: Give away land for tourism or face action

By Our Representative
In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the chief executive officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Narmada dam that they had better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face dire consequences. The four-line letter was sent to the village sarpanches on March 6, 2013, but strangely it never became an issue till now, when the threat of their eviction from their land became even more apparent.

Work on Garudeshwar weir, which is part of Sardar Sarovar project, begun "without necessary clearances"

By Our Representative
Has the work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Narmada dam, begun without necessary environmental and social impact assessment clearance of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA)? It would seem so, if one looks closely at the letter written by a senior member of the NCA to its chairman. The letter states, the weir would adversely impact downstream fishing activities as also the environment, about which “no assessment” appears to have been made so far.

New IPCC report warns of extreme climatic conditions, heatwave, uncertain monsoon and rise in salinity

By Our Representative
Expressing deep concern over the findings of the first assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Climate Action Network, which is a network of 850 NGOs across the world, has said that it is more than certain than ever before that human activities are responsible for climate change. The first installment of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was signed off by nations after its summary was negotiated line by line in Stockholm last week. Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, said in a press release that though global warming “requires immediate action”, polluters have failed to make “equitable allocations and concrete actions” to fight the danger.

Gujarat Forum, apex body of clean technology NGOs, asks Centre to withdraw Adani Power's eco-certificate

By Our Representative
The Gujarat Forum on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is an apex body of several environmental bodies and individuals, has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, to withdraw the approval letter granted to the Adani Power for its CDM project – grid connected energy efficient power generation – installed in the coal fired power unit in the Mundra special economic zone (SEZ) in order to earn carbon credits from the international market. In a letter to Dr A Duraisamy, director and member-secretary, National CDM Authority, the Gujarat Forum has said that the registration to the Adani Power cannot continue after a high-level committee headed by top environmentalist Sunita Narain, appointed by the MoEF itself, found "serious environmental violations" by the Adani Power.

Gujarat net gainer from the new backwardness index worked out by committee headed by RBI governor

By Rajiv Shah
While much is being made out from the latest “Report of the Committee for Evolving a Composite Development Index of States”, prepared under the chairmanship of Dr Raghuram R Rajan, new Reserve Bank of India governor, making some states happy while others unhappy, it has something which has gone totally unnoticed. Even as clubbing Gujarat as a “less developed state”, if the recommendations of the report are accepted, Gujarat is likely to get a higher Central allocation than is the case today. Submitted to the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the report recommends that Gujarat should be allocated 3.69 per cent of the Central share as against what was allocated by the Finance Commission – 3.12 per cent, which includes grants and share in Central taxes.

Modi-Shivraj nexus raising "bogus issues" related with delayed benefits of Sardar Sarovar project: NBA

By Our Representative
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), top anti-dam organization, has disputed claims by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Bhopal that the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) has helped both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in a big way, and gains would have been much greater had the Government of India helped raise the Narmada dam’s height to the full reservoir level. The NBA said, Modi, along with Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has “begun playing the same old SSP card, knowing pretty well that the project, which the Planning Commission estimates to cost more than 70,000 crores as on date, is ten times the initial sanctioned cost, and has not lived up to its tall political claims and paper promises.”

Senior Gujarat occupational health activist appeals to Madhya Pradesh CM to intervene for silicosis victims

By Our Representative
Expressing concern over failure of the Madhya Pradesh government to work out any schemes for the deadly silicosis victims of the state, senior activist Jagdish Patel, who is director, Peoples Training And Research Centre, Vadodara, and has been fighting for the silicosis victims of the Khambhat region of Gujarat for quite some time, has written a strongly-worded letter protest letter to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh chief minister. Wondering the veracity of the CM's claims through advertisements in dailies which say that he has transformed the state from Bimaru to a developed state, Patel says, "We strongly feel that development without social justice to the working class people is development with destruction”.

Official inertia alleged as heavy rainwater mixed with untreated chemical effluents spread to villages

By Our Representative
Top environmental group, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara, in a statement, has alleged that the Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd, which is supposed to treat industrial effluents and dispose it of in the sea via a channel, has been releasing untreated chemical effluents, polluting large number of villages, including those which are situated 56 kilomtres away, right up to Jambusar taluka in Bharuch district. The environmental group has said, “This came to light soon after heavy rains lashed in Vadodara and South Gujarat this week. Things have reached such a point that, mixed with rainwater, effluents reached up to Nondhana and Sarod villages of Jambusar taluka passing through Jaspur, Luna, Ekalbara, Chokari, Tithor, Karakhadi, Dudhvala, Kahnava and Viludara villages.”

Caste-based discrimination should be part of "future EU human rights policies, strategies and action plans"

By Our Representative
In a major setback to India, the elected representatives of half a billion Europeans in 28 countries have decided to come up with a resolution on October 9, which considers caste discrimination an important human rights issue that warrants a coordinated action by the European Union system. The resolution asks all EU countries to "carry out a systematic assessment of the impact of trade and/or  investment agreements on groups affected by caste discrimination, and to address these issues with the industry representatives, governmental authorities and relevant civil society organisations."

Farmers sign affidavits against N-plant in Mithi Virdi, ask PM not to enter agreement with US or Westinghouse

By Our Representative In an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sarpanches of several villages in Bhavnagar district have taken strong exception to the way the Government of India pushing for the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. Asking him to refrain from signing any agreement with the US government or other corporations and agencies on the proposed N-plant during his visit to the US, the letter says, "The Government of India has reportedly initiated moves to further dilute the Nuclear Liability Act to seal the nuclear deal with the US government. Intervention of the Cabinet Committee on security is being sought to override nuclear liability for Westinghouse."

Higher agri price influenced Gujarat agriculture to grow by 10 plus per cent in 2001-2011: Senior economist

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst sharp controversy raging among top scholars on whether high agricultural growth rate of Gujarat agriculture is being cited by a section of economists by choosing one of the worst drought years as the base year (2000-01) (click HERE to read), a senior economist of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, has said come up with a new explanation of the allegedly high growth rate. He has said that a higher price for agricultural product has been the main reason why Gujarat’s agriculture grew at a higher than 10 per cent per annum between 2001 and 2011. IIM-A’s Prof Ravindra Dholakia, who is one of those who has been criticized for choosing a bad drought year as the base, has in a recent paper, “Inter-sectoral Terms of Trade and Aggregate Supply Response in Gujarat and Indian Agriculture”, has said, “Inter-sectoral terms of trade” played a major factor ”in determining the growth performance of agriculture in Gujarat and all India”, whether it was the last decade or…

Madhya Pradesh government indifference towards silicosis victims prompt workers to launch a wave of protests

By Ashok Shrimali*
Workers in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh are up in arms against the state government indifference towards silicosis, the deadly disease rampant in sandstone mining. Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) coordinator Mohit Gupta in a statement has said this has happened because workers in these mines are suffering from silicosis for long, “yet, the owners have failed to provide any facilities or protective equipments to them, as is common in the country.” Worse, “they have not even been issued any ID cards, and they have no knowledge either about the name of the owner or the mine for which they are working for.”

Ban on industrial activity reimposed on Vapi, continues for Ankaleshwar and Vatva. Ahmedabad is spared

By Our Representative
In a major setback to Gujarat’s efforts to overcome pollution in its environmentally critical regions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has decided to re-impose ban on industrial activity on the industrial cluster of Vapi in South Gujarat, even as continuing with the ban imposed by it in 2010 on the industrial clusters of Ankaleshwar, also in South Gujarat, and Vatva, which is off Ahmedabad. The MoEF order, while re-imposing the ban on industrial activity on Vapi, has said that its Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), as assessed this year, has failed to show any tendency towards implementing an action plan to end pollution.

Gujarat agriculture fluctuates yet again: Oilseeds dip by 42.54 pc, wheat by 23.5 pc, cotton by 16.34 pc

By Rajiv Shah
Latest data obtained from sources in the Gujarat government have revealed that state agricultural production sharply dipped during the fiscal 2012-13 compared to 2011-12, such it would suggest that the state farm sector remains highly volatile, despite claims to the contrary by the state officialdom and a group of the economists. The figures show that the foodgrains production in Gujarat dipped by a whopping 22.87 per cent, cotton production by 16.34 per cent and oil seeds production by 42.54 per cent. The dip has come against the backdrop of claims by economists Prof Tushaar Shah and Prof Ravindra Dholakia, who have tried to prove in their respective studies that improved farm techniques and decentralized irrigation practices like checkdams and watershed projects have largely mitigated the impact of drought in Gujarat.

Patkar regrets "concessions" in land acquisition bill, passed in Parliament, were in the name of Sardar Sarovar

By Our Representative
Welcoming the recent statement by Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh that there would be no more Sardar Sarovar like projects in India, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar has said that “the reasoning and the rationale that such gigantic projects lead to massive displacement of not just families, but whole communities, following forcible acquisition of generations-old land and properties is understandable and acceptable. Although delayed, it is definitely one that shows a realization of the reality of such large project and their impacts. Not only inter-state conflicts, but also other conflicts between the state and its citizens are reasons for review of such conflict-ridden projects”.

Farmers decide to involve townspeople of Bhavnagar to oppose N-power plant, tell them: You too will suffer

Counterview Desk
In a move to launch a fresh campaign against the proposed nuclear power plant by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) in the very midst of the lush green area of Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district, the anti-nuclear plant organization, Bhavnagar Gram Bachao Samiti, has how worked out a fresh strategy – to involve citizens of Bhavnagar city. In a statement issued in Mithi Vidri, the Samiti – in association with a dozen other voluntary organizations – has said, “If the rural areas of Bhavnagar district will suffer, the townspeople will not be far behind.”

Nirbhaya case: Amnesty says death sentence to gang-rape convicts will not tackle violence against women

By Our Representative In a controversial statement, Amnesty International, one of world's foremost human rights organisations, has said that "far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India". Amnesty was referring to to the death sentence awarded to the four men, convicted of the December 2012 gang-rape by a court in New Delhi. The statement may trigger debate over validity of death sentence and whether it was awarded under the pressure of public sentiment.

Gujarat relegated to fifth position in investment, says latest Reserve Bank of India study

By Rajiv Shah The latest Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study, “Corporate Investment: Growth in 2012-13 and Prospects for 2013-14”, prepared in the Corporate Studies Division of the Department of Statistics and Information Management, has found that Gujarat has been pushed to the fifth position in investment destination. Analysing on the basis of capital expenditure intentions of the companies in private and joint business sector, the study has found that four states have overtaken Gujarat – Odisha, which is No 1 investment destination, with 27 per cent of all investments, followed by Maharashtra (19.1 per cent), Punjab (10.5 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (5.6 per cent) and Gujarat (5.4 per cent).

The proposed MIthi Virdi N-plant is based on "untested" reactor technology, alleges environmental NGO

By Our Representative
Top Gujarat-based environmental NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti has claimed that the technology being used for the proposed nuclear power plant at Mithi Virdi, Westinghouse AP1000 “is an untested reactor technology”, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has already “raised several technical doubts about the reactors, which were given a nod to by non-technical committee members of the NRC.” In a statement, issued jointly with the Bhavnagar Jilla Gram Bachao Samiti and the Gujarat Anu-urja Mukti Andolan, the NGO said this is particularly dangerous as the “exact location of the Nuclear Power Plant (Westinghouse AP1000) is just a few km away from Alang Shipbreaking Yard”.

Submergence because of Narmada project takes oustees' struggle, led by NBA, deep inside Madhya Pradesh

By Our Representative
Anti-Namada project sentiment appears to be fast spreading deep inside Madhya Pradesh. Latest reports suggest, over the last ten days, a civil disobedience movement is being carried out by thousands of oustees of the districts of Dewas, Khandwa, and Harda, affected by the Indira Sagar dam, which Narmada Bachao Andolan describes (NBA) as “the largest impoundment in the country”. An NBA statement said, “The state government tried to crush the movement by declaring section 144 on the waters of the Indira Sagar dam, but in all three districts, thousands of oustees have broken the section offering arrests, and spread Jal satyagraha.”

Gujarat government report expresses concern over poor state preparedness in fighting chemical disasters

By Rajiv Shah
A recent Gujarat government report has identified Bharuch in Central Gujarat as the most hazard-prone district where what are called Major Accident Hazards (MAHs) can take place compared to the rest of Gujarat. The report, titled “Gujarat State Chemical Disaster Management Plan”, which has just been released, says that in Gujarat a total of 1,730 hazard-prone units have been identified, out of which 313 are in Bharuch, followed by Ahmedabad (287), Vadodara (261), Surat (165), and Valsad (137).Of the total number of industrial units with chemical hazard, Bharuch has the highest number of MAH units (75), followed by Vadodara (65), Kutch (35), Valsad (30), Ahmedabad (29), and Surat (26).

Manual scavenging bill, passed in Parliament, has several lacunae, is 'confined to urban areas'

By Our Representative Meera Mathew, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, has said that the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, pssed in Parliament, has several major flaws. In her latest opinion on the subject, the senior lawyer particularly pointed towards Chapter IV of the bill, which shows that it entirely deals with the identification of manual scavengers in urban areas and their rehabilitation.

Sardar Sarovar oustees up in arm against MP officials on refusal to assess damage due to submergence

By Our Representative Unprecedented submergence in the densely populated villages of Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh in the last week of August has spurred a series of mass actions by the Sardar Sarovar project-affected families – most of them poor landless labourers, fish workers, potters, adivasis and other farmers, who are waiting to be fully rehabilitation with alternative land, house plots, amenities at resettlement sites, alternative livelihood etc.

International advocacy group asks GoI to withdraw eco-certificate to the Adanis' Mundra power plant

By Our Representative In an important development, a top international advocacy group, Carbon Market Watch (CMW), has welcomed the decision of EDF Trading, a major buyer of carbon credits from carbon offsetting projects around the world, to distance itself from the “controversial” Adani Mundra coal power project. The EDF Trading is a leading player in international energy markets and operates across all commodity lines, especially coal, which is the main requirement for the Adanis’ Mundra power project.

UPA works for Madhya Pradesh's BJP govt, colludes to pass land acquisition bill in Parliament, alleges NAPM

By Our Representative
The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of more than dozen organizations across India, has alleged that the Rajya Sabha vote in favour of the Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill was accomplished after agreeing to “three regressive amendments suggested by the Madhya Pradesh government and accepted by the UPA government.” It believes, “These amendments will take away the rights of the dam and canal affected people, even then hope is not lost on the struggling adivasis and farmers of the Narmada valley.”

Basing on raw NSSO data, senior economist finds 69 per cent leakage in Gujarat's public distribution system

Counterview Desk A senior Jawaharlal Nehru University economist has calculated, on the basis of raw data obtained from the National Sample Survey Organisation’s on foodgrains consumption trend across the country during 2011-12, that Gujarat had the “highest leakage” of foodgrains from public distribution system (PDS) compared to most Indian states. The economist, who works as assistant professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, Gujarat has turned out to be the “worst performer as far as functioning of PDS is concerned is Gujarat”. He added, “The worst aspect of PDS performance in Gujarat is that it is now the state with the highest leakage in PDS in 2011-12: The figure rising from 45% in 2009-10 to 69% in 2011-12.”