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Himachal leading to deforestation, most hit by hydropower projects: CAG report

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HP hydral projects and deforestation in himachal

HP hydral projects and deforestation in himachal

A report of CAG confirms the claims that the hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh gobbling up forests, drying up water channels, and putting region’s natural ecology and for stabilization of hill slope in severe hazards due to lack of re-greening, hydel projects use 7,000 hectares out of over 9,000 hectares of forest land turned into non-forest use

Shimla: Green activists have long protested the hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh that have been gobbling up forests and drying up water channels. Now a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) too backs the claims of the greens.

Compensatory afforestation was highly deficient, as 58 percent of the 12 surveyed hydropower projects reported no afforestation at all, the CAG has said.

As per the union environment and forests ministry, the hydro project developer is required to deposit funds for compensatory afforestation in place of the number of trees that were axed and the extent of afforestation required. The state forest department carries out the afforestation, meant to “rehabilitate” degraded forests and improve the habitat in a project’s catchment.

The CAG pointed out that lack of re-greening of hills poses severe hazards, both for the region’s natural ecology and for stabilization of hill slopes.

Significantly, the CAG report, tabled in the state assembly this month, pointed out that reforestation was negligible, even though companies had deposited the necessary funds for it; the blame, thus, lies with the state government’s forest department.

“Thousands of trees have been axed and thousands would soon meet the same fate,” rued R.S. Negi, who heads the Him Lok Jagriti Manch (HLJM), a people’s movement in Kinnaur district which champions environmental issues and has been spearheading the fight against upcoming hydro projects.

Before allocating any new project in the entire Himalayan region, which falls in seismic zone-IV and the more severe zone-V, the government should first undertake carrying capacity and cumulative impact assessment of the projects, Negi said.

Many residents of the remote Lahaul Valley are up in arms against the hydro projects in the Chenab river basin, as it falls largely in the high-altitude region (above 2,500 metres) in Lahaul and Spiti district.

“The Chenab river basin is under threat. The government has allocated more than two dozen mini and mega projects in the past four-five years,” said Ravi Thakur, local legislator and president of Jispa Bandh Jan Sangharsh Samiti (a group fighting against the large numbers of dams in the region).

“Of late, abnormal rise in temperatures, receding glaciers and increase in precipitation in these cold deserts indicate that something has gone wrong with nature,” Thakur told IANS.

In Chamba district, since 2003, the people of eight panchayats in the Saal Valley, under the banner of the Saal Ghaati Bachao Sangharsh Morcha, have been demonstrating against an upcoming private hydro project.

The Hul hydropower project, being executed by Hul Hydro Power Private Ltd near Chamba town, will ruin five kilometers or one-fourth of the catchment of the Hul stream, a tributary of the Saal river, environmentalists Manshi Asher and Prakash Bhandari said.

Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told IANS that the government is sensitive to the concerns raised by environmentalists.

“We are soon going to set up an authority to look into environmental violations by any project and monitor implementation of catchment area treatment, compensatory afforestation and environment management plans,” he said.

According to forest department estimates, over 9,000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted to non-forest use. Of this, 7,000 hectares were used for hydel projects. IANS

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HP PCB Urges Education Deptt to Educate Children About Air, Noise Pollution Caused by Firecrackers Ahead of Diwali

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HP PCB notice on Diwali 2019

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board, ahead of Diwali festival, has urged the department of education to educate children about the harmful effects of air and noise pollution caused due to bursting of firecrackers and also to encourage them to celebrate pollution-free Diwali.

The board has also urged the people of the State to celebrate this festival of light in an eco-friendly way and say no to firecrackers.

The HP PCB said that to access the impact of the bursting of firecrackers during the forthcoming Diwali festival, it will conduct a special monitoring drive in the state. During this drive, the board will assess the ambient air and noise quality in the State.

HP PCB said that necessary directions have been issued to all the regional officers and laboratory In-Charges of the State Board to conduct extensive ambient air quality monitoring derive with effect from October 20 to November 3, 2019.

Ambient noise monitoring will also be conducted during pre- Diwali October on 21 and on the day of Diwali (October 27).  

During this monitoring drive, apart from general parameters like particular Matters (PM10, PM 2.5), oxides of Sulphur and Nitrogen, Carbon Monoxide and Ammonia some additional parameters like Lead, Nickel, arsenic, Barium, Iron and Strontium will also be monitored, the PCB said.

PCB said that all the Deputy Commissioners and Superintendent of Police have been directed to ensure that no firework of firecrackers should be allowed to burst in the 100 meters vicinity of the silence zone such as hospitals, educational institutions, courts etc. as per the provision of law.

 Sales and use of firecrackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dBA is also prohibited.

Ironically, the Board has no check on various other activities that cause air pollution throughout the year. For example, garbage burning is rampant in the state. While the practice is regular in rural areas and municipal councils, the Municipal Corporation of capital Shimla is also not far behind.

Moreover, there is no check on vehicular emissions as both HP PCB and the State Police refuse to take responsibility for it. The ‘No Honking’ campaign to reduce noise pollution in the state has also failed miserably as no steps were taken to create awareness or to deter people from honking unnecessarily. Considering these facts, it sounds odd that the PCB would actually be striving to check air and noise pollution ahead of Diwali.

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HP Electric Vehicle Policy 2019 – Govt Proposes 100 percent Transition to EVs by 2030

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HP Electric Vehicle Policy - 2019

Shimla- Himachal Pradesh Electric Vehicle Policy- 2019 is to establish in the state, informed Chief Secretary Dr. Shrikant Baldi during a meeting held on September 18, 2019, regarding the framing of the draft for the policy.

Electric Vehicle policy is targeted at achieving 100 percent transition to Electric Vehicles by 2030 in Himachal in alignment with United Nation’s sustainable development goals and vision of Government of India, Baldi said. It’s intended to save the environment, accelerate demand for EV’s, promote sustainable transport system and to create public-private charging infrastructure for EV’s.

The policy also aims to make Himachal Pradesh a model state for Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption and to provide sustainable, safe, eco-friendly, inclusive and integrated mobility, Baldi informed.

He further added that the policy is being framed to create a conducive atmosphere for a shift from Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) to EV’s, and to encourage the use of hybrid EV’s by the Government entities during the transition period and to create newer employment opportunities.

Under this policy, the promotion of adoption of EV technology would be done by the way of providing fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. It would promote the creation of dedicated infrastructure for charging of EV’s through various incentives as per standards notified for Public Charging Infrastructure by Ministry of Power, Government of India guidelines.

He informed that a viable business model will be developed for private players to set up EV charging stations and infrastructure/. Provision for charging spots in commercial buildings such as hotels and shopping malls have also been included in the policy. Across the state, domestic rate of electrical power will be charged if an electric vehicle is charged at domestic user facility.

In public charging facility and commercial charging stations “Non-Domestic, Non-Commercial” rate of electric power would be applicable. However, the Himachal Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission shall be the final authority to determine the rate of electrical power to EV charging stations from time to time.

Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board Limited has been designated as State Nodal Agency for setting up charging infrastructure for EV in the State by the department of Multi-Purpose Projects Power. The State nodal agency shall fix the ceiling of the service charges to be charged by the public or commercial charging stations.

The policy also aims to support local manufacturing for which the State Government would provide incentives to EV batteries and related components manufacturing and disposal in the State. The incentives would be provided to eligible enterprises as per Himachal Pradesh Industrial Policy as applicable from time to time.

A State-level High Power Committee was also constituted for monitoring the implementation of this policy and for development of procedures and modalities where required.

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Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh to be Set up Soon, Rs. 1000 Crore MoUs Singed: HP Govt

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Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-To set Solar Power Plants in Himachal Pradesh, the State Government has signed two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) worth Rs. 1000 crore with two companies.

One MoU worth Rs. 600 crore was signed between State Government and Renew Energy Pvt. Ltd. through Director of the Company Prabhat Kumar Mishra for setting up of 150 MW Solar Power Plant in the State to produce green energy. This project is proposed to start production from 2021 and provide employment to over 1000 persons

While another MoU worth Rs. 400 crore was also signed with CSE Development (India) Pvt. Ltd. for setting up of 100 MW  Solar Plant to produce renewal energy by Director Business Development & Head Open Access Vikram Madan on behalf of the company.  This project on completion would provide employment to about 700 persons.

On behalf of the State Government, the MoUs were signed by Principal Secretary, Power and Renewal Energy Resources Prabodh Saxena.  

The government said the projects have direct employment potential of about 1700 people besides self-employment avenues to thousands of people.

The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the State Government would facilitate the companies to obtain necessary permissions and clearances etc. from the concerned authorities at the earliest so that work on these projects could be started soon. He said that work to set up the plants would be initiated soon as land had already been identified in Una and Kangra districts.

He said that Union Government has fixed the target of harnessing about 99533 MW solar power in the country through renewal solar energy out of which the State has been asked to achieve the target of exploitation of 776 MW solar power by the year 2022.

 

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