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A polluted future awaits Shimla as rising emissions, polluting vehicles go unchecked

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pollution-feature

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Needless to say, the DSP Shimla traffic police and HP Pollution Control Board are answerable for such ignorance by the officials under their command. We would like to forward this issue Shimla SP, DW Negi, and ask him to take some time from beating and abusing HPU students, and pay attention to the issue.

SHIMLA- Ecology, environmental balance, nature, climate change, global warming, green house effect, air pollution, emissions, do any of these words sounds familiar to you? We doubt. most of the people, irrespective to their educational background, do not realize the environmental crisis the humanity is creating. Of course, today, we would like to throw some light on one of these issues – emission from vehicles, and surprising carelessness on the part of the HP Pollution Control Board, Shimla traffic police, and the public itself.

Take a look at this video before we continue further.

Let’s note bore you with a lecture on environmental issues, but come to the point – rising levels of air pollution in Shimla, completely unchecked by any of the responsible Govt. authority including the Govt. itself. Obviously, we have no doubt about the share of ignorance on the part of the public.

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The condition is critical considering the fact that Shimla used to be the most referred hill station with healthy environment and pure air. Now, Shimla is losing that serenity and chastity of breathable air, especially if you in the Shimla city. Now, more vehicles crawl on Shimla roads. The city is expanding; population is increasing, and with it increases the number of vehicles. This year, the number is even higher as tourists turned towards Himachal due to recent flood in Shrinagar, which paralyzed its infrastructure.

Take a look at one more video

Traffic jams are hitting Shimla city roads everyday. Govt. didn’t make any preparation for readying parking spaces, so the situation is getting even uglier.

shimla-city-air-pollution

On the top of all, the pollution is rising due to higher emissions. Not just tourist vehicles, but local ones area also creating more hazardous condition. Old, decaying, and poorly maintained (or say not maintained at all) HRTC buses and that of private bus service providers are running unchecked on Shimla roads, literally spraying dense, constant stream of smoke.

Emissions from vehicles running on petroleum fuel are the most toxic ones and contains Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Air Toxics like benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acrolein, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and the coolants in vehicles using Freon, an ozone depleting substance, as a refrigerant.

If people think only environment is facing the damage, then it’s very idiotic perception. The quality of breathable air is decaying, the pattern of snowfall and rain is hit, it’s changing, and effecting agricultural occupations in Himachal, where agriculture is the biggest economy after tourism.

The Shimla traffic police gives its best to ensure traffic free road for the vehicles of VVIP politicians, high-rank Govt. officials, and those from Judiciary. A whole traffic plan would be changed if the Z + security fleet of Chief Justice of HP High Court is halted for even a minute in a traffic jam. No offence, but that does happen. But, the same traffic police let polluting vehicles rampantly run on Shimla streets. Pollution control board is not even in the scene. Everyone is completely blind when it comes to emission trouble.

What does the law say:

“Sub-rule (7) of Rule 115 mentioned under Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 says, “after expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the motor vehicle was first registered, every such vehicle shall carry a valid “Pollution under control” certificate issued by an agency authorized for this purpose by the State Government. The validity of the certificate shall be for six months or any lesser period as may be specified by the State Government from time to time.

If the certificate referred to in Sub-rule (1) is not produced within the stipulated period of seven days or if the vehicle fails to comply with the provisions of Sub-rule (2) of rule 115 within a period of seven days, the owner of the vehicle shall be liable for the penalty prescribed under Sub-section (2) of Section 190 of the Act.”

HRTC buses top the list of poorly maintained buses, then come the private bus operator followed by rest of the public including the tourist vehicles. Look at the buses and cars in the videos. The traffic police don’t need to stop them and ask for pollution check- certificate. Anyone with a normal eyesight could see heavy stream of smoke pumped out of exhaust. Sometimes, the buses/cars right ahead you make it difficult see the road as the quantity of dense emissions disrupt the visibility.

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Why no one is worried at such a disastrous mistake as ignoring a critical environmental concern -air pollution. We are literally on the highway to hell. Littering, improper garbage disposal, emission and burning garbage, especially plastic waste, in open spaces are haunting our heaven like Shimla.

Needless to say, the DSP Shimla traffic police and HP Pollution Control Board are answerable for such ignorance by the officials under their commandWe would like to forward this issue Shimla SP, DW Negi, and ask him to take some time from beating and abusing HPU students, and pay attention to the issue.

Of course, it’s a waste of time to expect a reaction to our criticism from the Govt., transport minister, the CM, or any political figure holding a chair in the Govt. They behave like masters and the public accept it like fearful slaves. No one is bothered to correct the malfunctioning democracy. The representatives elected by the people are not doing their job. In that case, the public has to react and ask for explanation for not doing what they had promised to them – better Himachal.

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However, such suggestion sounds like a south-Indian movie dialogue. Who the hell could do that – make the Govt. answerable or dare to criticize them? We don’t blame them. They are too conscious to invite a VVIP trouble when they struggle to ensure a survival.

environmental-issues-shimla

If not all, then those who are fortunate enough to have a smartphone camera and access to Internet, please, do not ignore such critical issues like air pollution.

You see a vehicle spitting out smoke, click a photograph or record a video and send it on editor[at]himachalwatcher[dot]com or you can post it directly into HW’s Your News section for instant publishing. You can choose to be anonymous while posting anything if you aren’t comfortable to disclose your identity. Not only emission, but there are a lot of other public grievances which need attention from us.

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Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Over 500 Forest Fire Cases Reported in Himachal, Forest And Fire Deptts Remain Irresponsive, Allege Locals

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Forest Fires in Himachal Pradesh in 2019

Shimla-Over 500 forest fire cases have been reported from Himachal Pradesh affecting an area of over 2600 hectare of forests in the state. These forest fire incidents in the state have caused huge financial loss, which is expected to rise in days to come as forest fire incidents are increasing each day.

The forest fire incidents in and around Shimla town are also increasing each day. The local residents in Totu, Chakkar, Tara Devi, Shogi, Bhatakufer and Mehli areas say they are facing troubles due to the forest fire.

Locals allege that neither forest department nor any fire department responds to their information of fire in the region.

“We called the fire services yet no fire brigade or firemen came to our rescue. The administration also did not help us nor take any information regarding the forest fire.Ultimately we had to douse the fire with whatever water we had collected on our own,”

Praveen, a local of Chakkar area of Shimla told ANI.

 

Locals in Chakkar and Totu on Monday and Tuesday had to collectively save the forests from fire and also had narrow escape by saving their houses from the forest fire.

They alleged that the forest and fire departments spend a huge amount of money to constitute fire fighting teams but they all have failed to control the incidents of the forest fire. They also said that the forest department’s claims of helicopters being deputed to control the forest fire are just fake claims.

“We left everything and started dousing the fire as soon as we got to know that the forest fire is reaching our homes. The government claims to have to spend a lot on controlling the forest fires but nobody in the administration responded to our calls for help. Either the information has not reached the officials or they are not doing anything about it,”

Anay Kant, another resident told ANI.

Locals say they hired labourers to control the forest fire. Dev Raj, one of the local labourers told the agency:

“We reach the spot and try to douse the fire as soon as possible. We don’t know about the help from the administration as we were busy in our work.”

The forest minister of the state, Govind Singh said that despite all efforts to sensitize the people about the forest they could not stop these incidents.

He said that the department has announced money rewards for those informing about those responsible for fire in the forests.-ANI

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Environment

Hydropower Projects in Himachal Not ‘Eco-Friendly, Govt Keeps People in Dark Through Biased Environment Impact Assessment Reports

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Himachal's Hydropower Projects Are not eco-friendly

Shimla- The Himachal Pradesh Government, as witnessed on several occasions, favours hydropower companies over the environmental impacts and affected people. It believes that these projects would boost the economic growth of the state and that there are hardly any environmental hazards linked to the construction of excess hydropower projects. There is a long list of pending projects that the government wants to get constructed.

In its environmental assessment reports,  the government preach that hydropower is eco-friendly. However, as a bitter reality, it does not appear to be true. There are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government is not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. are suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they are forced to evacuate. Let’s take a look at a new report compiled by an environmental group explaining why hydropower projects in the Himalayas are not eco-friendly.  

In the month of the ‘World Environment Day’, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydropower construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydropower production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all. This document compiles primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects highlighting the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report highlights the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

 “A report of the state’s own disaster management cell says that around 10 Mega hydropower stations are located in the medium and high-risk landslide area,”

states the document.

  The report explains that the magnitude of the underground component of the civil work in hydropower projects involving blasting and dynamiting exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. These impacts are yet to be adequately studied and understood.

Visuals and testimonies of affected people from project sites in Kinnaur, Kullu and Chamba falling in the Satluj, Beas and Ravi basin collected over the years have been used to show the impacts. Case studies like that of the Parbati II, Karccham Wangtoo, Kashang and Bajoli Holi projects illustrate how landslides, drying up of springs, damages to houses, farms and forests have made difficult the lives and livelihoods of the people in the project area.

Landslide in Jhakri village of shimla due to hydropower project

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The report finds that the existing studies available on these impacts are inadequate or biased in favour of the hydropower producers, with economics as the main concern. Environment Impact Assessment reports of hydro-power projects gloss over the geological & seismic vulnerability of the project sites, with an explanation that the ‘hurdles’, ‘surprises’ and ‘incompetencies’ of the mountain geology would be handled at a later stage, if and when they occur. ‘Scientific’ linkages become difficult to establish later, and during EIAs, the concentration is to only rush through the studies to get ‘clearances’.

“They say there is no scientific evidence that the landslides are because of project activities and so we cannot claim compensation in case of cracks in the houses or damage to fields”,

according to Ramanand Negi of Urni Village located in the affected area of the Karchham Wangtoo project and now sitting on a huge landslide. 

The report also refers to the Audit reports of the Comptroller Auditor General to show how the costs of these ‘surprises’ are borne by the affected people or transferred to the public exchequer. The costs that producers have been forced to bear have led to financial losses, bad loans, and cumulatively a slump in the hydropower sector over the last few years. 

According to the report,

“The contribution of hydropower sector today to the country’s total electricity production has halved from 25% to 13% in the last decade. Where this state of hydropower industries was an opportunity to review hydropower policy and the sector’s viability, the report of Parliamentary standing committee on energy that reviewed the performance of hydro projects in 2018 turned a blind eye to environmental impacts and safety norms”.

 

Based on the committee’s recommendations the Ministry of Power issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydropower projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, brings out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

Water Sources drying due to hydropower projects

Water sources drying in himachal due to hydro projects

 

The report also identifies the institutional failures of the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority that are supposed to assess the Detailed Project Reports and give techno-economic clearances, monitor the progress, and reasons for the delay in projects.

This list also includes the Ministry of Environment that has blindly granted environment and forest clearances overlooking the above impacts and non-compliance; the State Directorate of Energy and State Disaster Management Authority, who have failed to fulfil their regulatory roles and ensure that there is no negligence.

The environmental group demanded that an independent scientific review of the immediate or long-term implications of construction work for hydropower development in the Himalayas should be commissioned. Citizens’ engagement, public consent mechanisms need to be strengthened, and a grievance redressal process needs to be put in place.

 

Loos of wildlife in himachal due to hydropower projects

 

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India to Face Water and Food Security Risks by 2030, 21 Major Cities to Run Out of Groundwater by 2020: Report

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Water crisis in India by 20310

India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. The crisis is only going to get worse. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual 6% loss in the country’s GDP.

No Water in India by 2030

As per the report of National Commission for Integrated Water Resource Development of MoWR, the water requirement by 2050 in high use scenario is likely to be a milder 1,180 BCM, whereas the present-day availability is 695 BCM. The total availability of water possible in the country is still lower than this projected demand, at 1,137 BCM. Thus, there is an imminent need to deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that make our water use efficient and sustainable.

Water crisis in India by 2030

Classification according to Composite Water Index Scores (FY 16-17)

India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history. Already, more than 600 million people are facing acute water shortages. Critical groundwater resources – which account for 40% of our water supply – are being depleted at unsustainable rates.

Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers (53% of agriculture in India is rainfed). When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year. Interstate disagreements are on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance.

Indeed, if nothing changes, and fast, things will get much worse: best estimates indicate that India’s water demand will exceed supply by a factor of two by 2030, with severe water scarcity on the horizon for hundreds of millions.

Water Index scores vary widely across states, but most states have achieved a score below 50% and could significantly improve their water resource management practices. The Water Index scores for FY 16-17 vary from 76 (Gujarat) to 26 (Meghalaya), with the median score being 49 for Non-Himalayan states and 31 for North-Eastern and Himalayan states. Gujarat is the highest performer, closely followed by other High performers such as Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Seven states have scores between 50-65 (including two North-Eastern and Himalayan states) and have been classified as Medium performers.

Water crisis in India by 2030 2

Ranking of states according to Composite Water Index Scores (FY 16-17)

Alarmingly, 60% of states (14 out of 24) have achieved scores below 50 and have been classified as Low performers. Low performers are concentrated across the populous agricultural belts of North and East India and among the North-Eastern and Himalayan states.

Most states have achieved less than 50% of the total score in the augmentation of groundwater resources, highlighting the growing national crisis—54% of India’s groundwater wells are declining, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting 100 million people. Further, 70% of states have also achieved scores of less than 50% on managing on-farm water effectively. Given the fact that agriculture accounts for 80% of all water use, this underperformance, as discussed in the analysis of low performers above, poses significant water and food security risks for the country.

Finally, states have also performed averagely on providing safe drinking water to rural areas. With 800 million people or 70% of the country’s population, living in rural areas, and about two lakh people in the country dying each year due to a lack of access to safe water, this is one of the most critical service delivery challenges in the world.

Encouragingly, several water-scarce states are the leaders in Index performance. Several of the high and medium performers—Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana— are states that have suffered from severe droughts in recent years.

Overall, there is large inter-state variation in Water Index scores, but most states have achieved a score below 50 (out of 100) and need to significantly improve their water resource management practices. The Water Index scores for FY 16-17 vary from ~76 (Gujarat) to ~26 (Meghalaya), with the median score being ~49 for Non-Himalayan states and ~31 for North-Eastern and Himalayan states. Gujarat is the highest performer, closely followed by other high performers such as Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Most other states are clustered around the 40-60 band. Seven states have scores between 50- 65 (including two North-Eastern and Himalayan states) and have been classified as Medium performers.

This data was compiled and collected from 24 states. The data was collected for two years—the base year of FY 15-16, and FY 16-17—thereby enabling not only a benchmarking of the current water performance of states but also the study of the evolution of this performance across the last two years.

However, 60% of states (14 out of 24) have achieved scores below 50 and have been classified as Low performers. Most North-Eastern and Himalayan states are the lowest performers on the Index, but a few have scores that are comparable to or better than most of the larger states. Assam, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, and Meghalaya have the lowest Index scores (in FY 16-17) out of all states, ranging from 26 to 31. This low performance involves low scores across almost all indicator themes, with several states scoring zeroes or not submitting data for as many as seven indicators (out of 28).

On the other hand, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh have high scores, with both performing well in supply-side management (irrigation and watershed development) and water-supply provision (rural and urban).

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