Matters concerned with Environment

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ridiculous proposal to waste money on importing Trees !!

A great example of an innovative way of wasting public money !!
BMC to spend Rs 1.5 crore to transplant 100 grown trees- Hindustan Times
Bhavika Jain, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, November 28, 2009
After giving permission for over 3,300 trees to be cut this year, the city’s municipality now wants to spend Rs 1.5 crore to transplant 100 trees, to be brought in from Andhra Pradesh.

To make the purchase, members of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Tree Authority and representatives of its Gardens Department will visit the Rajmundry nursery in Andhra Pradesh.

Asked why the BMC is focusing on transplanting grown trees instead of planting saplings, Acting Municipal Commissioner R A Rajeev reasoned: “Today’s generation is restless and wants quick results. So, instead of waiting for a sapling to grow into a tree, we have decided to plant grown trees in different parts of the city.”

The BMC group will visit the nursery in 15 days and a budgetary allocation of Rs 1.5 crore has been made for the transplant.

This being the first visit, the group will buy 100 trees, 5 to 6 feet tall.

These trees will be used to beautify medians and footpaths across the city. Green activists in the city are up in arms against the BMC’s idea.

Debi Goenka, convenor of the Bombay Environment Action Group, said: “Transplanting of full-grown trees has been a complete failure. It is a waste of money.” Such transplanted trees need to be quarantined for 30 days before transplantation.

Environmentalist Rishi Agarwal echoed that sentiment: “This is the most ridiculous proposal the civic body has suggested.”

Green activists say since the survival rate of transplanted trees in the city has not been particularly encouraging, the BMC should refrain from spending resources on transplantation.

Last week, four of the 41 trees transplanted from the Shivaji Park swimming pool died. The BMC also wants to create tree banks across the city.

Tree banks will basically be small nurseries that will nourish and strengthen saplings before they are distributed during the BMC’s monthly plantation drives.

(inputs by Soubhik Mitra)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Misuse of "in-principle approval" in Bauxite mining

PIB Press Release
12:46 IST

Minister of State (Independent Charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh received a large number of representations in regard to the project for bauxite mining by the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC). In a statement issued here today he said the projects are now being examined in the Ministry for approval or rejection so that there is no ambiguity and project proponents do not misuse the ‘in-principle’ approval.

The following is the text of Shri Jairam Ramesh on the issue of bauxite mining in Orissa:

“I have been receiving a large number of representations in regard to the project for bauxite mining by the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) through Vedanta, a private mining company in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Orissa. The total amount of forest land proposed to be diverted is 660.749 ha., of which around 353.14 ha is in the Niyamgiri reserved forest. Concerns have also been raised on the impact that this project will, interalia, have on livelihoods of tribal communities.

The project application was received in the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoE&F) on February 26, 2005. The MoE&F gave ‘in-principle’ approval for this project on December 11,2008 under the Forest Conservation Act,1980. This ‘in-principle’ approval is to be converted to a final approval after the fulfillment of stipulations contained in the ‘in-principle’ approval.

As the representations started coming in, on August 6, 2009 the MoE&F asked the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Bhubaneshwar to investigate complaints that project activities have started even without the final approval of the Central Government in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The site was inspected and the site inspection report was submitted on August 16,2009. The site inspection report found that construction activity had begun in the non-forest revenue land. Technically this is not a violation of the law but it is a violation of the guidelines issued by the MoE&F which says that when a project involves non-forest and forest lands, construction in the non-forest land should not begin without clearance for activity in the forest land itself. A letter has been issued on November 25th,2009 to the Orissa Government asking for an explanation as to how the violation of this guideline has been permitted.

On August 3, 2009, the MoE&F had issued a binding guideline to all State Governments that application for diversion under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 would be considered only after all due processes contained in the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 have been fully and satisfactorily completed. A letter was subsequently issued by the MoE&F to the Orissa Government on November 3, 2009 directing the State to comply with the provisions of the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 and provide evidence for the compliance before the Centre could examine conversion of the ‘in-principle’ approval to final approval. The reply of the state government is awaited. In addition, another site inspection team is being sent in the next one week to verify fresh allegations of violations of the terms of the ‘in-principle’ approval under Forest Conservation Act,1980.

The new policy of the MoE&F does away with the concept of ‘in-principle’ approval. Projects are now being examined for approval or rejection so that there is no ambiguity and project proponents do not misuse the ‘in-principle’ approval.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble

Cost Overruns at Finland Reactor Hold Lessons -
In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble

NewYork Times

OLKILUOTO, Finland — As the Obama administration tries to steer America toward cleaner sources of energy, it would do well to consider the cautionary tale of this new-generation nuclear reactor site.

The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance. The most powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too.

But things have not gone as planned.

After four years of construction and thousands of defects and deficiencies, the reactor’s 3 billion euro price tag, about $4.2 billion, has climbed at least 50 percent. And while the reactor was originally meant to be completed this summer, Areva, the French company building it, and the utility that ordered it, are no longer willing to make certain predictions on when it will go online.

While the American nuclear industry has predicted clear sailing after its first plants are built, the problems in Europe suggest these obstacles may be hard to avoid.

A new fleet of reactors would be standardized down to “the carpeting and wallpaper,” as Michael J. Wallace, the chairman of UniStar Nuclear Energy — a joint venture between EDF Group and Constellation Energy, the Maryland-based utility — has said repeatedly.

In the end, he says, that standardization will lead to significant savings.

But early experience suggests these new reactors will be no easier or cheaper to build than the ones of a generation ago, when cost overruns — and then accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl — ended the last nuclear construction boom.

In Flamanville, France, a clone of the Finnish reactor now under construction is also behind schedule and overbudget.

In the United States, Florida and Georgia have changed state laws to raise electricity rates so that consumers will foot some of the bill for new nuclear plants in advance, before construction even begins.

“A number of U.S. companies have looked with trepidation on the situation in Finland and at the magnitude of the investment there,” said Paul L. Joskow, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of an influential report on the future of nuclear power in 2003. “The rollout of new nuclear reactors will be a good deal slower than a lot of people were assuming.”

For nuclear power to have a high impact on reducing greenhouse gases, an average of 12 reactors would have to be built worldwide each year until 2030, according to the Nuclear Energy Agency at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Right now, there are not even enough reactors under construction to replace those that are reaching the end of their lives.

And of the 45 reactors being built around the world, 22 have encountered construction delays, according to an analysis prepared this year for the German government by Mycle Schneider, an energy analyst and a critic of the nuclear industry. He added that nine do not have official start-up dates.

Most of the new construction is underway in countries like China and Russia, where strong central governments have made nuclear energy a national priority. India also has long seen nuclear as part of a national drive for self-sufficiency and now is seeking new nuclear technologies to reduce its reliance on imported uranium.

By comparison, “the state has been all over the place in the United States and Europe on nuclear power,” Mr. Joskow said.

The United States generates about one-fifth of its electricity from a fleet of 104 reactors, most built in the 1960s and 1970s. Coal still provides about half the country’s power.

To streamline construction, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington has worked with the industry to approve a handful of designs. Even so, the schedule to certify the most advanced model from Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba, has slipped during an ongoing review of its ability to withstand the impact of an airliner.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also not yet approved the so-called EPR design under construction in Finland for the American market.

This month, the United States Energy Department produced a short list of four reactor projects eligible for some loan guarantees. In the 2005 energy bill, Congress provided $18.5 billion, but the industry’s hope of winning an additional $50 billion worth of loan guarantees evaporated when that money was stripped from President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

The industry has had more success in getting states to help raise money. This year, authorities permitted Florida Power & Light to start charging millions of customers several dollars a month to finance four new reactors. Customers of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., will pay on average $1.30 a month more in 2011, rising to $9.10 by 2017, to help pay for two reactors expected to go online in 2016 or later.

But resistance is mounting. In April, Missouri legislators balked at a preconstruction rate increase, prompting the state’s largest electric utility, Ameren UE, to suspend plans for a $6 billion copy of Areva’s Finnish reactor.

Areva, a conglomerate largely owned by the French state, is heir to that nation’s experience in building nuclear plants. France gets about 80 percent of its power from 58 reactors. But even France has not completed a new reactor since 1999.

After designing an updated plant originally called the European Pressurized Reactor with German participation during the 1990s, the French had trouble selling it at home because of a saturated energy market as well as opposition from Green Party members in the then-coalition government.

So Areva turned to Finland, where utilities and energy-hungry industries like pulp and paper had been lobbying for 15 years for more nuclear power. The project was initially budgeted at $4 billion and Teollisuuden Voima, the Finnish utility, pledged it would be ready in time to help the Finnish government meet its greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto climate treaty, which runs through 2012.

Areva promised electricity from the reactor could be generated more cheaply than from natural gas plants. Areva also said its model would deliver 1,600 megawatts, or about 10 percent of Finnish power needs.

In 2001, the Finnish parliament narrowly approved construction of a reactor at Olkiluoto, an island on the Baltic Sea. Construction began four years later.

Serious problems first arose over the vast concrete base slab for the foundation of the reactor building, which the country’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority found too porous and prone to corrosion. Since then, the authority has blamed Areva for allowing inexperienced subcontractors to drill holes in the wrong places on a vast steel container that seals the reactor.

In December, the authority warned Anne Lauvergeon, the chief executive of Areva, that “the attitude or lack of professional knowledge of some persons” at Areva was holding up work on safety systems.

Today, the site still teems with 4,000 workmen on round-the-clock shifts. Banners from dozens of subcontractors around Europe flutter in the breeze above temporary offices and makeshift canteens. Some 10,000 people speaking at least eight different languages have worked at the site. About 30 percent of the workforce is Polish, and communication has posed significant challenges.

Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns. But Areva said it was not cutting any corners in Finland. The two sides have agreed to arbitration, where they are both claiming more than 1 billion euros in compensation. (Areva blames the Finnish authorities for impeding construction and increasing costs for work it agreed to complete at a fixed price.)

Areva announced a steep drop in earnings last year, which it blamed mostly on mounting losses from the project.

In addition, nuclear safety inspectors in France have found cracks in the concrete base and steel reinforcements in the wrong places at the site in Flamanville. They also have warned √Člectricit√© de France, the utility building the reactor, that welders working on the steel container were not properly qualified.

On top of such problems come the recession, weaker energy demand, tight credit and uncertainty over future policies, said Caren Byrd, an executive director of the global utility and power group at Morgan Stanley in New York.

“The warning lights now are flashing more brightly than just a year ago about the cost of new nuclear,” she said.

And Jouni Silvennoinen, the project manager at Olkiluoto, said, “We have had it easy here.” Olkiluoto is at least a geologically stable site. Earthquake risks in places like China and the United States or even the threat of storm surges mean building these reactors will be even trickier elsewhere.

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.

Centre for conservation of wetlands

Centre for conservation of wetlands
Staff Reporter

“60,000 inland wetlands spread over seven million ha facing grave threat”
SACON to be given Rs.5 crore in addition to Rs.20 crore in last 20 years

Coimbatore: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent charge) Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said that the Ministry would widely expand projects for conservation of inland wetlands and coastal areas facing the threat of destruction.
    Talking to reporters after interacting with scientists at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Mr. Ramesh said that there are 60,000 inland wetlands in the country spread over seven million ha facing a grave threat from real-estate promoters and were also being used as dumping yards for municipal and industrial waste. The Ministry would initiate an expanded national project for protecting and rejuvenating these wetlands. Similarly, the Ministry would intensify its focus on coastal wetlands. The Minister said that there was a threat to the Eastern Ghats because of mining activities and his Ministry had asked SACON to evolve a project for studying and protecting the Eastern Ghats ecology. SACON will also evolve a project for protecting the endangered Edible Nest Swiftlet in Andaman and Nicobar which were being smuggled out in large numbers besides evolving a project for protecting the population of hornbills, the State bird of Nagaland, which was fast becoming extinct. SACON had been given Rs.20 crore in the last 20 years and now the Ministry would provide SACON with additional Rs.5 crore for undertaking these projects.
    Mr. Ramesh said that he had earlier visited the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB) and that Rs.5 to 6 crore would be provided as additional funds for expanding the research activities. For the first time, the government agency would release four new clone varieties of eucalyptus and four varieties of casuarinas. A genetically modified eucalyptus that is salt resistant was being experimented and within four years it would be ready for field trial. The IFGTB is also studying the carbon sequestration, which is vital for climate change issues. He also announced that Rs.2.5 crore would be provided to the Central Academy for Training State Forest Officers at Coimbatore.
    To a query on clearance for India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Singara in the Nilgiris near Mudumalai, Mr. Ramesh said a “firm no.” “When the issue is evenly balanced, I would like to err for the cause of environment.” Stating that science was equally important, Mr. Ramesh said that the “painful decision” was taken after the personal interaction of the Member Secretary with all stakeholders because of factors such as four years continued disturbance to forest area, impact on the corridor and the objections from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. Union Forest Ministry would expedite clearance if the alternate site (Suruliyar in Theni District of Tamil Nadu) was finalised.
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