In the name of water

By Theja Ram

Highly saline brine ejects from the Nemmeli Desalination Plant

Highly saline brine ejects from the Nemmeli Desalination Plant

Sulerikattukuppam: The Nemmeli desalination plant located at Sulerikattukuppam, a fishing hamlet about 10 km north of Mahabalipuram is a Sea Water Osmosis Plant owned by Chennai Metroworks Ltd. The construction was executed by VATECH Wabag in collaboration with IDE Technologies, Israel, as per detailed design and and engineering specifications provided by Metallurgical & Engineering Consultants (India) Limited (MECON Ltd), a public sector undertaking.

According to the Environmental Clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the offshore seawater intake structure, i.e.a 1600 mm pipeline should have been laid at a distance of 1000 meters at an approximate water depth of 10 mts and the brine reject outfall, i.e the waste water pipeline ought to be at 600 mts distance from the shore with a depth of around 8 mts, constructed on a rocky bed as 164 million litres of highly saline water is disposed in to the sea everyday.

According to a press note by MECON Ltd, a 1200 mm brine reject pipeline was laid at a distance of 740 mts and a depth of 8 mts on a sandy bed causing the sand to clog the pipeline and eventually being buried, rendering it useless. Two separate pipes that originate from the compound wall of the plant dispose the waste directly onto the beach, which has altered the shoreline. In May 2013, the water from the shore washed away the fishing boats of people dragging along with it, a few houses.

According to the report of the fact-finding commission set up by the Chennai Solidarity Group, the flow of brine rejects on the sand has rendered nthe ground water saline, leaving it useless for consumption.

The Engineer of the plant, Mr Sabrinath said that the plant is planning to construct an air pipeline to draw out the sand from the clogged and buried one just a few months after its construction in 2008. “We haven’t got the clearance from Chennai Metroworks for the necessary funds to construct the pipeline,” he said.

“The reckless disposal of highly saline waste into the water causes the salt to settle on the sea bed which kills aquatic life. Also due to increase in water levels, the shoreline stretched into the land washing away the boats and homes. If the pipelines are not laid out quickly, this might be a perpetual ocurance,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, writer, researcher and environment activist.

In August 2013, the people of the village sat down in a silent protest demanding compensation for their washed-away homes and boats. The police were immediately informed and the men were taken to a nearby kalyanamantapam.

“Usually we keep them in the kalyanamantapam for a day and send them away, but the plant officials filed charges and 45 men were arrested under Section(s) 147, 148, 294b, 324 and 504/part I of the IPC for rioting, armed with a deadly weapon, voluntarily causing hurt by using weapons and intentional insult with intent to provoke or breach of peace. They were put in Puzhal Jail for 21 days after which they were released.

According to P Damodaran, aged 45, who was arrested, “We just sat down in fron of the plant gate and held up placards. It was a silent protest and the charges were irrelevant.”

A week after their release, the villagers held another protest on August 28. On August 29 midnight, around 100 policemen raided every single house in the hamlet. The men, who were informed about the raid left home but the police assaulted the women and took into custody 2 children and 5 elderly members.

“We had to bribe the police officer Rs 5,000 for each person to get them out. We did not want violence, The plant has destroyed our livelihoods and all we want is some compensation to start over. We don’t have our boats to fish and there is no other means of livelihood we know,” said J Palani, a fisherman whose 7 year old boy was kept overnight in the police station.

According to the Mamallapuram Police Inspector, Mr Sarathy, “The plant officials said that they were fishing in a restricted area and disrupted the work of the air pipeline. Hence we had to arrest them. Later when we found out that the construction was still in the planning stage, we let them go. The raid was conducted when we got information of the villagers carrying weapons, which was later discovered to be untrue.”

The discharge of effluents on beach has cut a deep channel on the beach and altered the profile of the beach. This has made landing boats more hazardous, and parking boats even more difficult. The current of the discharged effluents washes away the boats. Rocks dumped at sea by Metrowater are interfering with fishing, and have caused erosion. Discharge of wastewater on the beach has caused severe pollution, and polluted the groundwater. This has affected drinking water supplies for the village. The rocks dumped in sea have created invisible areas of turbulence and the rocks have not been fully removed. Many boulders remain and beside the road, boulders far bigger than those used for the road are dumped along with the ailgnment of the intake pipeline to the anchor pipeline. Boats that go over these rocks are prone to being overturned. Two accidents in the month of July resulted in the injury of one young fisherman, Chittibabu, and death a kattumaram fisherman. The police refused to register a complaint in both cases. According to the villager, Mr. Sarathy taunted them asking if a case has to be filed, the accused would have to be the waves or the rock. He told them that complaints against the Government cannot be entertained.

“There have been two committe reports and a fact finding mission which have given several reccomendations regarding the plant’s waste disposal system. The locals are afraid of interferibng with the plant anymore and without anyone to question, it has continued disposing waste directly into the sea since the past 6 years,” said P Opilli, environment writer.


Centre scraps tender for Cheyyur power plant

By Swathy R Iyer

Water is crucial for the fishing economy of Cheyyur

Water is crucial for the fishing economy of Cheyyur

Chennai: Since the Expert Appraisal Committee gave the green signal to the 4000 MW coal fired power plant project in Cheyyur, activists and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), working closely with the communities in the lagoon, have protested severely and have found many eco sensitive areas and sites of historical and archeaeological importance in the land acquired for the project.

According to independent journalist and activist Nityanand Jayaraman, the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the project was ‘fraudulent’ and ‘incomplete’. He works with the NGO Community Environment Monitoring which brought out a report- Science, Non-Science and the Dubious Role of ‘Experts’ in Environmental Due Diligence: A case study of Cheyyur UMPP- in July last year, which highlighted the misrepresentations made in the EIA brought out by the project proponent Coastal Tamil Nadu Power Ltd. (CNTPL).

The Centre, last month,  scrapped the tender for the Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) after the country’s major thermal power producer NTPC emerged as the only bidder.

All the private companies who were present for the first round of bidding soon withdrew their bids due to a cited insufficiency of funds. The bidding process was set in motion after the Madras High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in August last year, against the land acquisition for the project.

An ash dyke and a captive port were also to be constructed with the coastal power plant. The PIL said that land acquisition was being carried out in sites which were earlier rejected and that the project reports did not include the implications of land acquisition for the captive port which would be located at Panaiyur, 5 kms from the proposed power plant.

The petitioner, K.Saravanan had pointed out that the area which was now being acquired to construct the captive port was covered with sand dunes and could hence be classified as ‘eco-sensitive’.  (more…)


Is India prepared to tackle Climate Change?

Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister for Environment and Forests, delivered a lecture on Warming Up to the Climate Change Challenge at the Asian College of Journalism on Friday, October 24. Here are some excerpts.

Jairam Ramesh at Asian College of Journalism.   PHOTO: The Hindu

Jairam Ramesh at Asian College of Journalism.
PHOTO: The Hindu

On climate change policies:

Climate change is a public health issue. India needs to pass legislation on trading system for meeting fuel efficiency standards in order to gain global community’s confidence on its commitment towards addressing problem of climate change.

Shared vision for long term cooperative action including long term global goal for emission reductions and enhanced national/international action on mitigation of climate change.

Supporting proposals on equity issues like African groups equity reference frameworks that advances the cause of equity in a practical way accepting a new change keeping in mind past, present and future.

International relations:

There is a dire need for international cooperation. There were many treaties in place such as the Kyoto Protocol to cut down two-thirds of the greenhouse emission, but no longer valid due to the pullout of major contributors such as the United States and China.

India should device policies in order to show commitment towards cutting green house emissions in UNFCCC meet that would be held in LIMA.

There is a need to introduce the concept of graduation by which countries become more responsible as they move up the equity ladder and that India must rework its articulation of equity and differentiation.

Climate change, an ideological issue:

The concentration of the tribal community overlaps with the presence of the forests with rich coal and mineral deposit; it becomes a threat to their livelihood. If the forests are cut down, then their natural habitat would be affected, in turn affecting their health. Thus climate change is not a political issue, but an ideological one.

Environment as a cost to be borne needs to be challenged and this attitude needs to be changed.

India’s approach:

Redefining the parameters of environment issue. Renewable energy is the future and India should be the leader of renewable energy in the world.

We need to view the era of a Green economy not as a threat but an opportunity in order to shift trajectories and incorporate responsibility.

Bringing in a rapid and inclusive growth that is sustainable for the future generation. India must develop scientific efforts to monitor and model its contribution to climate change challenge. India’s satellite capability should be used for ecological monitoring.

Not a city for dogs


Sick stray dog catches a break

by Tanvi Jadwani

Chennai, Oct 30: The fate of stray dogs in Chennai appears doubtful as the plans of Chennai Corporation to open a dog shelter have not yet materialized. There seems to be a lot of confusion within the corporation officials about the existence of a corporation run dog shelter in the city, which according to news reports, was inaugurated in the month of March last year.

The shelter was supposed to be located near the Kannamapet burial ground and additionally had a burial space allocated exclusively for pets. The employees at the shelter were also to be trained to take care of the physically and mentally unwell dogs at the first government dog shelter in Chennai.

A year and a half later, there is no government run dog shelter in Kannampet or any other place in the city. Both, the police and the people in Kannamapet remain unaware of any such development in their area and have no idea about a 35,000 Square feet shelter existing next to the burial ground.

The Public Relation officer with the Chennai Corporation said that the shelter was opened right before the elections and is very much in place. Mr. A. Palani, Health Committee Chairman of Chennai Corporation agreed saying, “Yes, it is opened.”
Dr. Rajkumar, Chennai Zone- 10 health officer, corrected that there is no government run dog shelter. Instead there is a government run dog clinic by the name of “Pet Clinic Kannamapet”. The Clinic was opened in March 2013 and performs Animal Birth Control (ABC) on pet animals free of cost. The clinic has no rescue squad and no shelter. Sree Vidhya, head veterinary at the Kannamapet clinic, confirmed that they only treat pet animals and not stray dogs.

Apart from the Blue Cross, there are only Private animal shelters in the city which have been repeatedly reported for the behaviour of animal cruelty. The Blue Cross and People For Animals in North Chennai have been performing active sterilization on dogs in Chennai, confirmed the Animal Welfare Board of India. There still no cemetery for pets in Chennai. Madras canine club (MCC), which was supposed to set up a crematorium in Mylapore in 2010, is still pending.

Dr. Mathews John of the Madras Canine Club said, “Our club is attempting to have a cremation ground for animals and the facility of electronic cremation for the pets but the Chennai Corporation has stalled the process by not granting us permission”.

Satya Rama, an Honorary Secretary of Blue Cross said that the Blue Cross of India receives many calls inquiring about a pet cemetery but they don’t have one in the city. There is a possibility of one being in Mylapore.

Opposing the need of a permanent animal shelter, VinodKumar Shankarapaniker, Assistant Secretary of the Animal Welfare Board of India said that the Rule 12 of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) dog rules states that every animal breeder needs to be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India. The Madras Canine Club did not get their registration done. They wanted to conduct show in Chennai where animals were used as props for entertainment.

VinodKumar stated that it is the responsibility of the corporation to control the dog population in their area with ABC. He believes that an animal shelter run by untrained employees is a bad idea.

Recalling the horrific incident of a government run dog pound in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, which was managed by the Municipal Corporation, where only nine dogs survived out of the fifty which were put in a dog pound. The dogs in the pound were all starved, mistreated and were derived of any medical assistance. The Assistant Secretary believes that an untrained team to run a dog shelter will lead to similar circumstances in Chennai too.

The rule under the Animal Birth Control act of 2001, the government of India does not allow animals to be impounded in a place. The ABC rules for dogs state that stray dogs can be caught, sterilized, immunized and need to be realised at the same place or locality from where they were captured.

“We wrote to the Chennai Corporation that having a permanent dog pound is illegal”, said VinodKumar.

“The corporation thinks that the best way to solve dog menace in the city is by simply putting them in a shelter”, he added. “There is more to this. They will end up infecting the healthy dogs by putting them with infected dogs. To perform effective ABC, we need qualified people do the surgery, adequate infrastructure, trained dog catchers, dog pound needed for rest after the sterilization. There is a humane way to do it. The corporation is very crude when it comes to catching dogs. The corporation will not get a doctor who will check and segregate mentally and physically ill animals. They will simply net all the animals and will just take them to the shelter.”

Agreeing with a need for a government run crematorium for animals in the city, VinodKumar said that this will only happen when people start respecting animals and leave the prejudice behind.

Links for reference

Animals suffer as monsoon fills the city


IMG_20141020_174435086 Mother rescues her piglets after heavy rains

by Tanvi Jadwani

Chennai, Oct 21: With a scarcity in the number of animal shelters in city, the arrival of monsoon with heavy rainfall has created a lot of problem for its fauna. Flooded roads, open manholes and uprooted trees have all contributed to the inconvenience of the street animals in Chennai.
Mostly all the animal rescue services in the city depend on a phone call from the citizens to the NGOs. There is no specialized rescue team that works to help animals reach a safe haven during such crisis. The animals which go unreported or the smaller animals which go unseen get no specialized attention from any of animal welfare organizations in the city.
Anuradha Chawla, an animal activist from Chennai said, “Monsoon is the worst time for animals in the city. They do not easily find food in the garbage dumps or the road, the baby animals usually get abandoned and the cases of hit and run increase. There was a case where a dog was hit by car while it was raining this week. We called an NGO to come and rescue the dog but they came three days after the complaint and by then the infection had spread majorly and the dog’s wound had deepened.”
“There are not enough animal shelters in the city. The NGOs are always busy with some or the other rescue. Even when they manage to send volunteers, they do not know what to do”, she added.
S. Vinod Kumar, Assistant Secretary of the Animal Welfare Board of India, said that they haven’t received any calls in the past three days complaining that the heavy rainfall is affecting animal welfare in the city.
“It is not physically possible for a team to be present in various parts of the city to take care of every animal that has fallen, it never happens” he added.
The Blue Cross of India, which started with an attempt to save dogs drowning in a flooded street receives about 50-60 calls every day, says Satya Rama, an Honorary Secretary of Blue Cross.
“Every day is a crisis day for us”, he says, “with only three ambulance and so many rescue calls, we already have a handful”, he adds.
“Animals get stuck in deep muddy dicthes or under fallen trees. Rainy season is the time when people should open their gates for the welfare of the animals”, advises Anuradha Chawla who lives with eleven dogs that she has rescued.

‘Low agricultural growth linked to inefficient water use’

The state’s agricultural growth rate has been pegged at 9% this year and his could be due to the uninformed and inefficient water use. Speaking at a discussion organized by the Madras Institute of Development Studies(MIDS), on the genesis of the World Bank funded multidisciplinary IAMWARM project and its impacts on the tank economy in Tamil Nadu, professor Sivasubramaniam of MIDS presented his research findings.mid1 (more…)

Kudankulam technical snag raises concerns among activists

Chennai, Oct 29:  The temporary shutdown of the first unit of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) due to a technical snag has raised concerns among activists.

S.P. Udayakumar, of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) said (more…)