Archive for July 2009
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court’s Thursday verdict, allowing construction of the Commonwealth Games Village on the Yamuna banks has come as a “disappointment” to activists fighting to save the river and its floodplains.
“Waterman” Rajinder Singh, who led a protracted battle against the government’s decision to allow construction on the riverbed, said: “Anything that is not in favour of the people and is against the rivers and the environment cannot be a court’s ruling. This judgment is a disappointment, and we will oppose it.”
The Magsaysay Award winner said the judgment will allow “governments to change the land use policy on rivers, and there will be no deterrent against the misuse of floodplains that are vital to the preservation of rivers.”
“Rivers in the country are either dead or dying, and a judgment of this nature needs to be opposed. We will mobilise people across the country who love rivers and are fighting to protect them to come out and resist the murder of waterbodies,” he said.
Vikram Soni of the National Physical Laboratory said there was ample evidence of the area under construction being a floodplain. He termed “incorrect” the court verdict that there was no danger to the river, as the construction activities were not being carried out on the river and the floodplain. “More than anything else, it is a geological fact that the area is a floodplain. After 20 million years of flooding, that area today has 40 metres of sandbanks, if that is not a floodplain then what is?” he questioned.
Prof. Soni cited the report filed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, which authenticates the areas as floodplain and an important aquifer. “The area has been notified as floodplain by the Central Ground Water Board and the status of that area cannot be changed on the basis of a master plan. This area is extremely important for a water-starved city, and allowing concrete constructions and the use of flyash as has been done by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation will kill the natural aquifer.”
Activists of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan are upset that the Supreme Court has denied that the area is a floodplain. They say the court should have admitted that the construction could not be put off, as the Commonwealth Games is a national event. “The court should have cited the real reason for allowing the construction. It should have consulted experts, not passed a judgment based on a day’s hearing,” Manoj Misra of the YJA said.
He said the ruling “suits the Delhi Development Authority and gives it the permission to build on the floodplains. Our petition was not just against the Commonwealth Games Village but for securing the rivers. We are disappointed by the quality of the judgment.”
Commodore Sureshwar Sinha of Paani Morcha, a non-government organisation, said the danger to the Games Village being constructed on the floodplains need to be addressed too.
“There is a danger to the construction as well as to human life. The area is prone to flooding, and if there ever is a high tide, the loss of life and assets will be imminent. The government should have allowed the Games Village to be a temporary structure; it would not have posed any threat to the ecology.”
He said India should consider de-canalisation of rivers. “England and Germany, for instance, have learnt from their mistakes and are de-canalising their rivers. India too must pay attention to the adverse impact of canalisation.”
NEW DELHI: Yamuna Satyagraha would have completed two years of its protests against construction on the riverbed. After the SC judgment on
Thursday, the events were cancelled. Environmentalists were left aghast at the court’s order.
AGK Menon, convenor INTACH, said the decision had been most `regrettable’. “The area where the Village is coming up is indeed the floodplain, has been so historically and nothing anyone says can change that. Saying it is behind an embankment and thus not on the riverbed only seems to be a convenient way of interpreting it,” he said.
Vinod Jain, director, NGO Tapas, said that the area of the riverbed and floodplain had been chalked out by the Central Ground Water Authority and unless it intervened or the Geological Survey of India redefined the area, NEERI can’t decide that a part of it was not the floodplain. “The idea of justifying the Games Village by the Akshardham Temple is like justifying one murder with another. The temple should not have been there in the first place. Why even have the PM-headed committee monitor it,” he said.
Dr Vikram Soni, a research scientist with NPL, said: “There is a 40 m sand bank on the site which is a great recharge zone aquifer. In 1950, an embankment was made as a flood protection measure. The land on the other side of the embankment towards the river has been declared a protected notified recharge zone by the CGWB. This is the official floodplain and the sites in question fall inside it.”
“Our petition in court was to save the river and not against any particular construction. The high court judges spent several months judging the merit of the case, visiting the site and making an informed opinion. The Supreme Court’s mandate was only to see if the committee that the HC had set up was required or not. We will now organize a massive public protest against what we feel is a very poor judgment,” said Manoj Misra, convenor, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
NEW DELHI: The Rs 2,000-crore Commonwealth Games Village project adjacent to Yamuna river got the Supreme Court’s green signal and was virtually rescued from an environmental trap by the Rs 500 crore Akshardham Temple complex.
The SC on Thursday allowed construction activity to be resumed at the CWG village project saying the site was identical to the one allotted to Akshardham Temple complex, which was cleared during the NDA regime and validated by the SC in 2005.
Quashing the Delhi High Court’s serious environmental concerns and its order virtually stalling the project, the apex court said: “Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and other authorities are free to proceed with the work at the CWG village site.”
A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan said: “The reading of the SC order of 2005 makes it clear that the present Commonwealth Games Village site and the site allotted for Akshardham Temple form part of the same area and both are adjacent to each other.” Therefore, identical considerations should be applied, it said.
What irked the SC was the fact that the HC entertained the PIL challenging the CWG village project despite there being an eight-year delay in its filing. The PIL had alleged that the project being on the river bank would cause serious environmental damages and lead to changing the river’s course resulting in flooding.
The HC should have seen the long delay — the project being given land in 1999 and site being advertised in 2003 — and “ought not to have entertained the PIL in 2007”, said Justice Sathasivam, writing the judgment for the Bench.
The SC also set aside the expert panel put in place by the HC to examine the project from environmental aspects while recording Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s assurance that the Prime Minister-appointed committee consisting of the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi as chairperson and Delhi chief minister as vice-chairperson with other members would continue monitoring the project in association with noted environmentalist Dr R K Pachauri.
Accepting most of the arguments advanced by Vahanvati on behalf of the DDA that was supported by expert environmental opinion from professional body National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the SC said: “CWG village site is not either on a ‘riverbed’ or on the ‘floodplain’ of the Yamuna river.”
“The decision of the expert and autonomous body, NEERI, supported by materials placed by other bodies such as Central Water Power Research Station and the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), the same cannot be lightly interfered with by the court without adequate contra material,” said Justice Sathasivam, the author of the judgment.
The SC virtually gave a clean chit to the government on all the aspects over which the HC appeared to have some environmental reservation. “The HC disregarded and ignored material scientific literature and the opinion of experts and scientific bodies which have categorically held that the CWG village site is neither located on a ‘riverbed’ nor on the ‘floodplain’,” the Bench said.
The Centre had made DDA rush to the SC last year to challenge the HC order as it was seriously concerned about the fate of its sovereign guarantee for holding the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that would stand in jeopardy if the CWG village project work was to be impeded in any manner given the short time left for the mega sports event.
The apex court accepted DDA’s argument that while the temple was 1.7km away from the river bed, the Games village project was 1.2km away and that the project had all environmental clearances including that from NEERI.
Appearing for the respondents — Vinod Kumar Jain and Rajendra Singh — advocates Sanjay Parikh and M L Lahoty had termed the project as an environmental hazard and said: “As the city of Delhi is wholly dependent on Yamuna river, its ‘riverbed’ and ‘floodplains’ have to be protected.”
New Delhi: Patients in India continue to be exposed to substandard medicines six years after a government panel had examined the problem and recommended rapid corrective action, a study has revealed.
The study by an international research team has found that several samples of medicines used in the treatment of malaria, tuberculosis and other infections failed tests to assess pharmacologically active ingredients of the drugs.
Immunologist Amir Attaran at the University of Ottawa, Canada, collaborated with economists and other researchers in India, the US and the UK to analyse 281 drug samples from Delhi and 260 samples from Chennai picked up in July 2008 and March 2009.
Overall, 12 per cent of the samples from Delhi and 5 per cent of the samples from Chennai failed one or both of two tests. Despite its small sample size, Attaran said, the study provides a snapshot of reality with serious implications for health. Even a 2 per cent failure rate might mean thousands of patients in India might be buying drugs unlikely to work, he said.
They have reported their findings in the journal Public Library of Science One. Substandard drugs have lower concentrations of pharmacological ingredients than what they should actually contain.
The results show that little has changed since 2003 when a 10-member panel led by the then head of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, R. Mashelkar, had documented that substandard drugs in India made up 8 per cent to 10 per cent of the domestic pharmaceutical market. The panel had suggested corrective steps to be implemented by 2006.
Attaran and his colleagues found failure rates ranging from 2 per cent to 17 per cent. “We used crude tests — the quickest and least expensive — to catch the most obvious problems. Samples that fail these tests should not be used as medicines,” Attaran told The Telegraph.
All samples from five of 26 chemists’ shops in Delhi and 16 out 26 shops in Chennai passed tests, but samples from 10 shops in Delhi and 8 in Chennai had 6 per cent to 10 per cent failure rates. Samples from three shops in Delhi had 20 per cent to 30 per cent failure rates.
This non-uniform failure patterns across chemist’s shops suggest that the problem of substandard drugs appears to be driven by a small subset of manufacturers or shops thriving in a poorly regulated environment, the researchers said.
A member of the panel that had been chaired by Mashelkar said that although the government had initiated action on the panel’s recommendations, the pace of the corrective steps have been disappointing.
“The laws are still weak, there is little deterrence, and substandard and fake drugs still pose a serious problem in India,” Vijay Karan, former Delhi police commissioner and panel member, said.
An official in the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation — the agency which regulates medicines in India — said inspections in various states suggested that about seven per cent of drugs in India might be substandard.
A drug industry analyst has questioned the new study’s methodology, arguing that it has information gaps and appears intended to create a scare about drugs from India using a small sample size. But he conceded there were reasons for worry.
“We don’t know whether identical brands were picked up from the two cities (Delhi and Chennai) and how close they were to expiry dates,” said Chandra Gulhati, editor of the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities, India, a journal of drugs.
But potential sources of problems are variations in manufacturing standards, and transportation and storage of medicines, Gulhati said. “Some chemists’ shops might be switching off their refrigerators at night.”
Mysor: For the first time in the history of a University in the country, a scientific research has been launched to probe reasons for male infertility.
The research is being carried out by the University of Mysore in the wake of several studies revealing that men too are responsible for infertility among couples.
The Zoology Department of Manasagangotri has launched this research spending Rs. 10 lakh grant provided by UGC.
The Department will carry out the research in association with Mediwave Fertility and Research Centre, JSS and K.R. Hospitals. The University also wants to involve Mission Hospital.
Dr. S.S. Malini of the Department says that a research scholar will be deputed for the purpose. Research in this regard will be carried out in the Human Genetic Lab located in the Department. A research fellowship too will be granted for the purpose, she added.
Dr. C. Sharath Kumar of Mediwave Fertility Centre said that the project aimed at an in-depth scientific research on the exact reasons for male infertility. An Ethics Committee has been formed.
After obtaining permission from the childless couple, the sperm of the man will be collected and sent for studies and analysis. Besides, the reasons for lesser number of sperm count will be detected and research conducted, whereby a report will be prepared.
The report will be sent to the doctors as well as to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. There is no limit for registration. Names of the persons willing to undergo research will be registered for six months. Later, six months will be spent on gathering data, six months for tests and analysis and research for one-and-half years.
Apart from Mysore District, couple from other parts too can avail the facility. Men affected by infertility and obesity and women suffering from repeated abortions also can avail of the free facility.
The affected men and women may contact the Mediwave Fertility and Research Centre for consultation. For details contact: Zoology Department on Ph: 2419784, 2419775, K.R. Hospital: 2427252, JSS Hospital: 2563843, Mediwave: 2444441.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The chair of science and technology in the State was always occupied by men of eminence – Dr P K Valiathan, Dr A D Damodaran, Dr Iyengar, Dr N Balakrishnan Nair, Dr C G Ramachandran Nair, Dr Muthunayagam – men who had planned and executed scientific research projects, men who had guided many PhD students, and men who had academic experience.
Lack of such eminence and the consequent loss of authority can turn out to be quite detrimental to the future of science.
Shoddy planning and hasty implementation of scientific projects has led to the expenditure of tax payer’s money in projects that are not advertised or peer-reviewed. So has the unrealistic and impractical vision at the top-level ending up in flashy inauguration of a number of institutes, but with zero productivity.
The DNA Barcoding Centre at Puthenthope and the Kerala School of Mathematics in Kozhikode are perfect examples. Located in picturesque locations, both were inaugurated with much fanfare June last. The single room that houses the DNA Barcoding Centre has nothing more than a few computer tables with some conical flasks on top. The official version is that the chemicals, and the freezers to keep them, are on their way.
The Kerala School of Mathematics, conceived on the model of the Newton Institute in Cambridge and funded by the Department of Atomic Energy, has been blessed with a beautiful building. One year since its inauguration, it has one assistant professor, one administrative officer, one clerk and one visiting professor.
No academic courses, no projects, no research.
Thankfully, the people of the State has been spared from bearing the expense for the much-hyped ‘Kerala Minerals and Nonmaterial Research Centre’, a pet project of the EVP, and the ‘National Centre for Raman Spectroscopy’.“The
KSCSTE has to give priority to solving the problems plaguing the existing R&D centres and develop them, rather than starting new centres for a few hours of fame,” said a senior scientist. The only period in time when the institutes really feel that they are under one umbrella is during the Kerala Science Congress, which of late has assumed the status of a mega scientific carnival.
The expense of the last Science Congress has unofficially crossed Rs 40 lakh. For an official statement through the RTI Act, the EVP himself said that the accounts were not available at the Council. How could it be, when A/C rooms were booked for every Tom, Dick and Harry who passed by the venue and A/C cars were plying from the Capital to Kollam and back, with and without passengers?. The centralisation of power can happen, but not responsibility.
Decentralisation of responsibility also happens, in the matter of fixation of pay scales. The violations regarding the salary patterns as well as the fixation of pay at various research institutes are so huge that even the Finance Department is at a loss as to how to clear up the mess. The excess salary recovery from the TBGRI staff ordered by the Finance Inspection Wing had to be written off owing to political pressure. Even the excess amount that was to be collected from January 2009 has not yet been collected.
“There is only one way out. If you can pay the staff CSIR pay scale, why not adopt the CSIR rules too? It will avoid a lot of ambiguity and it has no loopholes either, like the KSCSTE rules. Recruitments, assessments and promotions can be done in time without any hassles,” opined a very senior scientist.
All the scientific staff are fed up with the allegations of corruption, nepotism and favouritism at the KSCSTE headquarters. Ideally, they would like an independent inquiry by a committee of senior scientists, into the problems plaguing the science sector and urgently treat the rotting wounds.
It would all depend on the political will of the Chief Minister who is supposedly fighting favouritism and corruption, his political secretary who is said to be the care-taker of the Department and his principal secretary.
Dhanbad: Three years ago, former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had outlined his vision for India — energy security through enhancement of oil and gas exploration and production worldwide by 2020. Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR) is contributing towards that goal.
The institute has been awarded a Rs 36.07-crore project for coal testing and analysis by the Planning Commission through Coal India Limited (CIL). The project holds much significance towards realising the Union coal ministry’s target of increasing coal production to 650 million tonnes by 2012 and 1,200-1,300 million tonnes by 2020.
The surplus coal will, in turn, be used to produce 2 billion gigawatts of thermal power and 100 million tonnes of steel by 2020.
Under the project, CIMFR will analyse 1.85 lakh meter of borehole cores (coal samples). Different kinds of equipment will be installed at the institute for conducting 17 to 18 types of tests, including ascertaining the ash content and calorific value of coal. The analysis will help to find out the usage of particular coal types for different purposes such as running thermal power plants and steel production.
The institute will have to submit the final results to CMPDI, Calcutta, and Geological Survey of India.
Ashok Kumar Singh, the head of the coal characterisation section of Resource Quality Assessment Division of CIMFR, Digwadih, said: “More than 75 project assistants, including engineers and chemists, have been roped in to project. Besides taking the help of its branches in Bilaspur, Nagpur and Ranchi, CIMFR will also be assisted by a number of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research laboratories — Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute in Durgapur, National Metallurgical Laboratory in Jamshedpur and Regional Research Laboratory in Jorhat (Assam).”
Singh, who is also one of the project leaders, added: “Some coal samples have already arrived from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) in Ranchi. Besides, construction of a new laboratory is underway.”
Scientists of CIMFR have a long experience of testing coal through borehole analysis method in different areas of Jharia coalfield region