Environment Matters

Matters concerned with Environment

Monday, May 21, 2012

Veerappan den to be tiger haven

Veerappan den to be tiger haven
Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, May 15 2012, DHNS:

For stars with stripes
Roars of tigers may soon be heard in the den of notorious forest brigand Veerappan—Sathyamangalam forest—as the Centre has “in-principle” agreed to declare it a tiger reserve.
“We are in the process of establishing more tiger reserves. Based on our 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve (Kawal Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh) has been constituted.  Further, ‘in-principle’ approval has also been accorded to declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu a tiger reserve,” Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said here on Tuesday at a regional stock-taking summit on tiger conservation.
The Sathyamangalam forest was the hideout of Veerappan until he was killed in an encounter in 2004.
This forest is also significant as a wildlife corridor in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve between the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats and is a link between four other adjoining areas of Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, Sigur Plateau, Mudumalai National Park and Bandipur National Park.
The minister said a national repository of camera trap photo database of tigers is also being set up that would enable linkages with similar repositories in states to keep track of wild tigers.
The Tamil Nadu government, too, stated in the Assembly that it had decided to create the state's fourth tiger reserve in Sathyamangalam on 1,40,924 hectares through a notification. The state has three tiger reserves at Mudumalai, Anaimalai and Kalakad-Mundanthurai.
India's official tiger count now stands at 1706, an increase of 295 tigers from the 2006 tiger estimate. The latest tiger census—based on camera trappings in the night, satellite tracking and prey-base estimates—actually provides a range, suggesting that the total number of tigers in India may vary from 1,571 on the lower side to 1,875 on the upper side.
“The 2010 country-level snapshot assessment of tiger and its habitat has shown an increase of 20 over the 2006 assessment. However, the outcome has highlighted the need for restoring the fringe areas of tiger reserves and connecting forest linkages,” the minister said.  Fourteen wild tigers were poached in 2012 whereas 18 died natural deaths.

The high court stays compulsory consultant accreditation for EIA

High Court relief for environment engineers | Deccan Chronicle
The high court has stayed an official memorandum by the Ministry of Environment and Forests which made it mandatory for environment consultants to obtain accreditation with the National Accreditation Board of Education and Training, Quality Council of India (QCI).

This comes as a major relief for such engineers, who conduct environment impact assessments (EIA) and prepare such reports to obtain prior environment clearance of projects from regulatory authorities. An environmental impact assessment is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects.

Experts in the field of environment engineering, who prepared the report argued before the court that such mandatory scheme is illegal and beyond the law. In line with the National Environment Policy, the MoEF had issued Environment Impact Notification, (EIA Notification) in 2006, imposing certain restrictions and prohibitions on new projects or activities. It also mandated that all industrial activities and projects that are listed under the notification must get prior environment clearance.

“As the preparation of EIA Report is necessary for submission of application for clearance, the project proponents generally engage the services of Environment Consultants. However, the official memorandum which is challenged before the court restricted the area of consultancy to the accredited sectors and notified that the EIA reports prepared by non-accredited consultants would not be considered by the Ministry,” states petitioner.

They further state that after the scheme was made compulsory, the consultants were not only precluded from preparing the report and making representations before the appraisal committees but also had to await their turn for consideration of their application. They often have to wait for over a year considering the long queue of applicants and the fact that QCI does not possess the required manpower or the infrastructure.

Justice S. Abdul Nazeer while staying the memorandum also issued notices to Ministry of Environment and Forests and state government’s department of ecology and environment.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No Power Shortage in Japan Despite Idling 90% of Nuclerar Capacity

PanOrient News | Greenpeace: No Power Shortage in Japan Despite Idling 90% of Nuclerar Capacity

Greenpeace: No Power Shortage in Japan Despite Idling 90% of Nuclerar Capacity

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Despite the cold winter and with more than 90% of nuclear capacity being offline, there are no power shortages in Japan, according to Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, commenting on the Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata No.2 nuclear reactor being taken offline on January 13th for scheduled checkups, bringing the three-reactor plant to a complete halt for the first time since the No. 3 unit started operating in 1994..............Read on ...

Health check-up: how healthy is it?

The Hindu : Opinion / Open Page : Health check-up: how healthy is it?

With the advent of myriad tests, everyone can be made' a patient'
by detecting insignificant abnormalities which do not call for any
One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicines. Sir William Osler

While the hi-tech, modern medicine has done a lot to take care of the sick, it seems it is causing injustice to the apparently healthy by over-investigating and over-treating. Extensive, needless health check-ups may reveal insignificant abnormalities in many healthy persons. With the advent of total body scanning' and the myriad laboratory tests and procedures of investigation, everyone can be made' a patient' by detecting insignificant abnormalities which do not call for any intervention. Detection of these abnormalities' causes jubilation to the technological, pharmaceutical and medical industry from the commercial point of view! Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine,' should pardon me for associating medicine with the word industry,' for he doesn't know what happened to medicine since he left this world in 377 BC! The present-day consternation about health check-ups' is not so much about the rationale of it as about its marketing and application with ulterior motives mostly of the murky commercial deals and monetary exploitation of patients. The erosion of standards and values in research, reporting, marketing and application of the science to humanity calls for critical comments to stem the rot.

It is shown that to prevent one stroke' we will have to treat 850 normal people unnecessarily with anti-hypertensive drugs (which are not without side effects) for well over five years. The big business bosses have continuously been trying to reduce the normals (normal lower limits of blood pressure readings, blood glucose levels, etc.) through paid research so that many millions of normal people could be labelled as patients, which means filling their coffers! And we gullible doctors simply swallow these scientific reports as gospel truth, which are pumped in by their high-powered marketing strategies.

They brainwash the medical profession, and condition their brains through other unethical means. Beware the endless efforts of these industries to make' new patients out of the healthy population by creating' a scientific basis to change normal limits of blood sugars and blood pressure and a host of other parameters so that more of the normal' population is brought into the net' of diseases out of their vested interests. They even create new diseases on paper to make more money. Awareness of these abnormalities and the inescapable further investigations' deprive happiness and produce ill-health due to anxiety, depression and even neurosis.

Just a few basic investigations and a thorough clinical examination will do in most of the apparently healthy individuals to detect significant problems and common diseases, or just to have the psychological satisfaction of being in good health.

It has become a fad in the higher socio-economic strata to run to specialists (not family doctors a tribe which is almost extinct) for every trivial symptom, have needless investigations done, and get a long laundry' list of drugs. Some of my patients, with great pride and satisfaction, show bulky files of periodical health check-ups and tell me that they have routine check-ups and routine medication with Aspirin, Atorvastatin, Alprazolam (the 3 A's considered a panacea against heart problems !) and a host of other drugs, thinking that these compensate for all the bad lifestyle they live with. Many of them receive a premature divine call.

Meera it is her pseudonym had cold and headache for a week and went straight to a neurologist. He promptly ordered a CT scan of brain which revealed some age-related changes. Worried a lot after reading the abnormalities' in the scan report, Meera lost appetite and started losing weight. Later, she was referred for an ENT check-up which revealed the presence of a small polyp (insignificant) in the nose. On seeing the endoscopy report, she lost the remaining appetite and got depressed. The loss of weight prompted a referral for a pulmonological check-up which included all tests from CT scan of the chest to pulmonary function tests and beyond.

Severely stressed, Meera got admitted to a huge hospital where all the specialists descended on her like eagles and took away their pound of flesh. The team included a psychiatrist to whom we doctors usually refer finally to wash of our hands. Finally, no significant abnormality could be found except the stress (doctors' induced psychological and financial stress)-induced loss of appetite and weight. The original problem of cold and headache, perhaps, subsided naturally, for treated cold lasts for one week and untreated cold lasts for seven days! Meera, a graduate in Arts, should consider herself lucky to get out without her abdomen or skull opened in the name of evidence-based' treatment.

Pritham Bhattacharjee, Editor-at-Large of Pentasect and Founder & Chief of Wordsmith at Wordsmith Communication, while narrating incidents connected with this subject, wrote to me: In Edinburgh, I went to register myself in National Health Service. Once all paper formalities got completed, I was told to come next week for a Health Check-up. I sincerely told the lady: I pray to Lord that I may not need to come again after that. The lady's brows twisted, and then I said: Don't you think my prayer is sincere? She understood and burst out in a laughter of understanding.

Certain studies revealed increased morbidity in places where there are more number of doctors!

(The writer is a pulmonologist at the ‘Pay what you can' Clinic,  Perundurai, Erode district, Tamil Nadu. His email ID is drtramaprasad@gmail.com)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hiroshima, Fukushima, Jaitapur...

Hiroshima, Fukushima, Jaitapur...

Hiroshima, Fukushima, Jaitapur...
By: Sudeshna Chowdhury
Date: 2011-07-13

Incidents of contamination and radiation leakage in Japan have raised serious issues related to safety of nuclear power plants. At a recent seminar held in the city, well-known scientists and experts spoke about India's nuclear programme, benefits and risks involved

The recent Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan raised serious concerns about the safety aspect of nuclear power plants. Reports of contamination and radiation leakage in Japan generated fear among people all over the world.

In fact, the Fukushima crisis sparked off violent protests in Jaitapur too, where India's largest nuclear power plant is supposed to come up. While protests in Jaitapur took a political turn, the big question on everybody's mind was are nuclear power plants safe enough?

To dispel myths related to nuclear power plants and to bring awareness on various aspects of nuclear energy amongst youth, a seminar on, 'Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fallacies' was organised by R D National and WA Science College in Bandra (w) recently, where more than 300 students from 30 colleges across the city participated.

Scientists suggested that fear of radiation is the main reason why people are opposed to having nuclear power plants in their area. Said Dr S P Dharne, Associate Director, Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL), "Radiation is a demon which cannot be seen or felt.

It just penetrates your body. The recent Fukushima disaster and horror stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have to a large extent, shaped people's perception on nuclear power plants. Hence, radiation phobia is a huge issue among people.

But this fear is more psychological. In fact, radiation is present everywhere. In places like Narora (in Uttar Pradesh) and Kalpakkam (in Tamil Nadu), where you have nuclear plants for so many years, people are living there for generations and there is no significant damage to health that has come to our notice."

Comparing nuclear energy to thermal and hydropower, which are considered a lot safer, Dharne said, "It is not only nuclear energy, coal too generates a lot of dilute radioactive materials. Hence, total penalty on the environment should be considered while objecting to any technology. Every technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. We will have to weigh the risk factors vs the amount of benefit we derive from any technology."

To ensure safety of nuclear reactors, Dharne emphasised that, "Safe design, quality workmanship and diligent operation will guarantee the safety of nuclear reactors." Stringent quality assurance; early detection and deviation from normal procedure in case of an accident; and immediate safe shutdown as well as containment of the radiation, are various measures which can prevent any nuclear disaster.

It is also important for an independent authority to review the safety standards of a nuclear power plant.
To avert nuclear disasters, well-known nuclear scientist, Dr Anil Kakodkar, who was also the chief guest of the programme suggested that, "Each reactor should be able to stand on its own and too many common site facilities should be avoided. Moreover, India is an intelligent buyer and a stringent regulation system is in place when we buy reactors from outsiders."

France and Germany are the pioneers in the field of nuclear energy and our nuclear power needs to grow, he emphasised.

When somebody from the audience asked about the controversial Jaitapur project and the impact that the nuclear project can have on the marine ecology, Dharne clarified that the impact on the surrounding marine ecosystem will be minimal.

Talking about various forms of energy, which included thermal, hydro and solar, scientists highlighted the importance of nuclear energy in generating electricity.

Almost 16 percent of electricity generated worldwide is through nuclear power plants, "Whereas in India only three per cent of the total amount of electricity generated is through nuclear power. We are currently looking at increasing it to 10 per cent," said Dr R R Kakde, General Manager (Corporate Communication), NPCIL.

The panel suggested that nuclear energy could be the ultimate solution to the country's growing energy demands. Calling nuclear energy as "a commercially viable domain", Kakodkar highlighted the challenges when it comes to renewable sources of energy.

"Sun doesn't shine round the clock and that is a big challenge when it comes to solar power. Solar energy is very expensive. So, the aim is to reduce the capital cost while generating solar power."

Electricity generated from nuclear power plants is much cheaper compared to thermal or hydropower. Said Kakde, "The first nuclear power plant in the country at Tarapur generates electricity to Maharashtra and Gujarat. The electricity generated here is being charged at the rate of 92 paise/unit, whereas the normal rate is Rs 2.75-3/unit."

The amount of land required to set up nuclear plants is less compared to other alternative sources of energy. Said Kakde, "To set up a hydro power project almost 2000-5000 hectare of land is required.

A thermal power plant would need approximately 70 hectare whereas a nuclear power plant needs just 20 hectare of land." But availability of uranium, raw material for nuclear power plants, is a concern, said Kakodkar.

Jaitapur will be implemented, declares Jairam Ramesh
The controversial 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra will be implemented despite all hurdles, declared union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh. He said that whatever be the opposition, the government would go ahead with the JNPP, taking into consideration all aspects of environment and security norms.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has initiated a safety review of India's nuclear power stations in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. All the facilities are safe, said AEC chairman Srikumar Banerjee.
In the Indian reactors, Banerjee said, the review carried out has shown that adequate provisions were in place to handle situations like a station blackout. The AEC is also constructing reactors, which can withstand flash floods and cyclones in the coastal zone.

The Other Side
Anti nuclear campaign groups claim that nuclear energy is inherently dangerous and the biggest challenge is the disposal of huge amount of radioactive wastes generated from nuclear power plants.

Said Karuna Raina, campaigner at Greenpeace, an international Non-Governmental Environmental Organisation (NGO), "Until a few months ago, the nuclear lobby would claim that if Japan, inspite of being prone to earthquakes, could have nuclear plants, then why can't we? But Fukushima has shown us that nuclear plants can be dangerous. Team of experts working there even found radiation in the sea water."

Dr V Pugazhendhi, who has a clinic in Kalpakkam claims that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from cancer, in the area.

"My research states that people working in the power plant suffer from myeloma cancer(rare blood cancer) whereas people from neighbouring villages suffer from thyroid cancer and other autoimmune thyroid diseases. The results have statistical significance."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

India Its Releases Satellite Based Wetland Atlas

India Its Releases Satellite Based Wetland Atlas
(from http://abclive.in/environment/534-india-isatellite-wetland-atlas.html)

Friday, 10 June 2011 21:18
Written by Dinesh Singh Rawat

New Delhi (ABC Live): India on Wednesday released A National Wetland Atlas and State Wetland Atlases to form the basis of a comprehensive wetland conservation strategy Wetlands, whether natural or man-made, coastal or inland, are of great ecological and economic significance in different states.

They play a critical role in the water cycle, and are highly productive ecosystems that provide a wide range of ecosystem services, in addition to supporting significant recreational, social and cultural activities.

However, wetlands today are under severe threat. A National Wetland Atlas and State Wetland Atlases, prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Ahmedabad, were released on 8th June 2011 by Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh said: “Wetlands are seriously threatened from various sources. Despite the ecological services wetlands provide, and regulatory mechanisms consistent with the Ramsar Convention, we have so far lacked a detailed mapping and inventory of wetlands.This comprehensive mapping will help us prioritize wetlands for protection.”

This is the first time such atlases have been prepared on the basis of satellite imagery, in a systematic manner. The maps categorize wetlands into 19 different classes, and are being made available at a 1:50,000 scale resolution.

Excluding rivers, wetlands cover some 10 million hectares, or a little over 3% of the country’s geographical area. Of this 10 million hectares, reservoirs account for about 2.5 million hectares, inter-tidal mud flats for 2.4 million hectares, tanks for 1.3 million hectares, lakes/ponds for 0.7 million hectares, mangroves for some 0.47 million hectares and corals for about 0.14 million hectares. Yet, only 25 wetland sites in India are protected as Ramsar sites, under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (to which India is a signatory).

These Atlases will now be used by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to designate critical wetlands to be protected under the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, notified in December 2010.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cell Phones Might Cause Brain Cancer- IARC Exper panel

Expert Panel: Cell Phones Might Cause Brain Cancer

Expert Panel: Cell Phones Might Cause Brain Cancer

'Limited Evidence' Suggests Cell Phones 'Possibly Carcinogenic'
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
xray of person holding phone up to head

May 31, 2011 -- The expert panel that evaluates cancer risks today said that cell phones might possibly cause brain cancer.

The announcement comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Like the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society relies on IARC for evaluation of cancer risks.

"After reviewing all the evidence available, the IARC working group classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans," panel chairman Jonathan Samet, MD, chair of preventive medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, said at a news teleconference. "We reached this conclusion based on a review of human evidence showing increased risk of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, in association with wireless phone use."

In finding cell phones to be "possibly carcinogenic," the IARC means that heavy cell phone use might -- or might not -- cause a specific form of brain cancer called glioma. The finding means that research is urgently needed to find out whether cell phones actually cause cancer, and how they might do it.

The IARC estimates that some 5 billion people worldwide have mobile phones. Lifetime exposure to the magnetic fields created by the phones -- particularly when they are held tightly against the head -- rapidly is increasing.

Children are at particular risk, not only because their skulls are thinner but also because their lifetime exposure to cell phones likely will be greater than the exposure of current adults.

Putting Possible Cancer Risk in Perspective

It's important to put the possible risk into context. Kurt Straif, MD, PhD, MPH, head of the IARC Monographs Program, notes that the IARC currently lists some 240 agents as "possibly carcinogenic," including dry cleaning fluid and some commonly used pesticides.

While the IARC doesn't make recommendations to consumers, Straif noted that there are precautions people can take.

"Some of the highest exposures come from using mobile phones for voice calls. If you text, or use hands-free devices, you lower exposure by at least [10-fold]," Straif said at the news conference. "So this is left to consumers to consider whether this level of evidence is enough for them to take such precautions."

Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, notes that the IARC is a highly credible group. But Brawley echoes Straif's advice: People who are worried can reduce their risk.

"On the other hand, if someone is of the opinion that the absence of strong scientific evidence on the harms of cell phone use is reassuring, they may take different actions, and it would be hard to criticize that," Brawley says in a news release.

John Walls, vice president for public affairs at CTIA, the trade group representing the wireless communications industry, notes that the IARC findings do not mean cell phones cause cancer -- and that the limited evidence on which the findings are based are far from conclusive.

"Based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that '[t]here’s no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer.' The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that '[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems,'" Walls notes in a news release.

Samet and colleagues will publish a summary of their findings in the July 1 issue of The Lancet, which is still in press.


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