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Environment

Over 12,000 trees already axed, thousands more marked as 2000 crore Kaithalighat-Shimla four lane approved

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Himachal is cheered up after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave a nod to the Rs 1583.18 crore two-laning project (in formation of four) for 28 kilometers Kathalighat to Shimla section (Dhalli) of NH-22 (old numbering). But environmental activists are worried about adverse impacts of proposed felling of over 33,000 trees including seedlings and saplings. An area of 919 bigah would be acquired for the project. Considering unchecked rise in vehicular emissions and pollution from other harmful practices like biomass/garbage-burning in open in Shimla and Solan.

So far, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has paid for only Solan to Parwanoo phase and this cost includes cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. NHAI has already paid Rs. 8, 71,92,790 to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and Rs 9,31,40,305 to the Divisional Forest Officer, Solan.

PARWANOO_SOLAN

An RTI activist, Himanshu Thakur, questioned Ministry of Environment, forest and Climate Change (MeEF) about how much CAMPA funds were received and how the funds would be utilized. He sought information regarding the status of CAMPA fund utilization in last 10 years in the state of Himachal Pradesh. But Rajagopal Prashant, CPIO and AIG (FC), did not provide required information saying “No information is available with this office and that the application was being transferred to the Government of Himachal Pradesh for provision of information if any.” But even State Forest Corporation seems to be evading the matter as they haven’t provided any information to the applicant.

kaithalighat-shimla four lane
Parwanoo- Shimla NH 22 widening and four-laning work began in 2015, and is under progress. NHAI has not initiated widening work at Dharampur, Jabali, and Kummarhatti. It suggests that either the required land isn’t acquired yet or the matter pertains to ligation. In either case, the project could witness long halt, and in that case, it would be nothing more than a gimmick.

So far, 11,984 trees are felled in the first phase from Parwanoo-Solan. Now, thousands of more trees are about to be axed in next phase from Kaithalighat to Shimla. The HP State Forest Corporation has already marked 21,000 trees, 10,221 saplings, 1,604 seedlings, and 5,206 poles to be cleared. The trees marked for felling include Chil, Deodar, Ban, Kharik, Shisham, Siris, Mango, Eucalyptus, Popular, Tun Akhrot, Robinnia and others.

Apparently, between trees and so called “development”, the later is winning. After all, we all want “development”. There is no doubt that the four-lane will minimize traffic congestion, reduce journey distance by 17 kilometers and save up to 45 minutes, and boost transportation of goods, thus, leading to overall development of the state.

Shimla is excited about the four-laning project, but only very few people wonder how it would affect the ecology. The National Green Tribunal was forced to ban commercial activity and entry of fossil fuel vehicles into Rohtang region after excessive air pollution was reported in surveys. NGT needs to take notice of this issue as well to ensure compliance to guidelines provided under Conservation Act.

Trees absorb carbon-dioxide and provide living creatures with breathable oxygen. So, the trees are like purifiers and it does matter when thousands of them are suddenly cleared. The emission levels remain the same, owing to rise in vehicular traffic and other human activities. But clearly we have lost huge chunk of forest and would continue losing more. The other critical issues related to it are destruction of wildlife habitat, especially avian habitat/nests. That’s why, under the provision in Conservation Act 1980, guidelines have mentioned placement of synthetic nests around the affected area due to land diversion, but lack of cognisance to this seems prevalent on Parwanoo – Solan highway.

hamirpur-national-highway

Disappearance of trees is feared to lead to soil erosion and trigger landslides on newly constructed highway. Further, monkey-human conflict in Himachal is an apt example of what deforestation leads to. Not just Shimla or Solan, “development” is asking for tree-sacrifice in other districts too, like tree felling for widening of National Highway (NH)-88 between Hamirpur and Balugloa village, near Jawalamukhi, in Kangra district. About 2,023 trees were marked in January this year for the proposed widening here.

No clue of Tree Plantation/Afforestation

According to the permissions obtained by NHAI under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the Forest Corporation must find a barren land double the cleared area and plant trees for afforestation and undertake maintenance and care for 5-10 years. In case of Shimla-Parwanoo four-laning, Forest Department of Himachal Pradesh was given compensation for tree-felling or fund for the afforestation work, which is about 18 crore in this case. The trees will take many decades to grow into the size of trees cleared, so plantation should have been under progress.

However, an RTI filed by an activist, Himanshu Thakur, revealed that the government has no clue about afforestation work. The RTI filed sought information regarding the CAMPA funds utilization, area selected for tree-plantation and progress made so far, but the MoEF clearly replied that there is no such information available with the office and transferred it to HP Govt. offices that haven’t acknowledged receiving any funds for afforestation.

That smells like another corruption scam in making in which money meant to plant thousands, may be lakhs, of trees would just go into the pockets of few individuals. No afforestation work is being carried out when it must have begun with approval of four-laning project itself. At least that’s what the response to the mentioned RTI application indicates.

NHAI paid the amount to CAMPA and HP Forest Corporation for compensatory afforestation. The point is, none of the departments have acknowledged receiving the money, and, on top of that, they have no information about when and how compensatory afforestation will be done. CAMPA says state will answer and the state is evading the matter by not answering it,

said Himanshu

Other information sought in RTI Act 2005
1 In the process of widening (4 lane) of National Highway-22 (old numbering) from Parwanoo till Solan in Himachal Pradesh, how many trees have been cut till now?
2 Whose permission was sought for the cutting of trees? Please provide the copy of permission letter
3 Has NHAI paid any amount of State Forest Corporation for the cutting of trees?
4 Who will be having the ownership of the wood of these trees?
5 Will NHAI be planting trees in order to compensate the loss of flora and fauna or the particular area?

NHAI in reply said that it has already transferred funds to the CAMPA account as compensation/fund for afforestation. So, most information sought under RTI was provided except about afforestation work.

Strict guidelines were given under Forest Conservation Act 1980 to cut only as many trees as necessary. The guidelines also require planting new plants on either side of the four-lane as well as on the verge of the road. 11,504 trees had been felled by the end of March 2016 and the wood of these trees belongs to NHAI.

On ground level, the plantation work is not even in the priority list. As observed earlier, HP government is not at all serious regarding critical ecological issues. It has not moved a single muscle to monitor and keep a check on activities causing air, soil and water pollution. The condition is so poor that Shimla Municipal Corporation is directing its sanitation workers to burn garbage instead of collecting it because the capital city does not have an operational solid waste treatment plant. Furthermore, the Jaundice outbreak due to contamination of Ashwani Khud had claimed many lives and had landed about 15,000 people in hospital, which clearly exposed blatant corruption in SMC, PCB, and IPH.

Tara-Devi-tree-felling_131

Other than legally felled trees, illegal activities are also leading to deforestation. The tree-massacre in Tara Devi forest in Shimla, in which 500 trees were felled, is an apt example of it. Surprisingly, majority of illegal tree felling was reported from the home district of the forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri.

Deforestation is inevitable as we all seek “development”. All we can do is to delay it or work on afforestation. So, tree plantation and rehabilitation of wildlife must be top priority for any sensible and responsible government. Sadly, the awareness among people regarding these critical issues is negligible, and that further encourages government’s lethargic attitude.

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 7 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 world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Baddi MC turns site of Rs 9.7 crores proposed Waste Management Facility into illegal dumpyard

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dumpyard of Baddi MC

“We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard.”

Solan: While the Centre and State Government of Himachal Pradesh are claiming improvement on every front including waste management under Swacch Bharat campaign, as another infamous achievement, the State Government has turned the site of a proposed waste treatment plant for the Baddi town of Solan district into an illegal dump yard.

Due to the increased pollution and hazards due to the illegal dumping of Municipal Waste and the dysfunctional common effluent treatment plant (CETP) in their area, the residents of villages under two Panchayats, Malpur and Sandho, are compelled to form a front ”Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti to take the fight for the right for clean air and water to the door-steps of authorities.

The BBNDA was supposed to build a 9.7 crore ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility’ on this spot where today they have created a foul-smelling open dump. This is totally illegal,

Sukhdev Singh, a resident of Malpur and Vice Chairperson of the Samiti said.

Baddi waaste management facility

Members of the Samiti of local residents

The BBNDA had in 2015 received an environment clearance for an ‘integrated solid waste management’ project provided 36 conditions were satisfied. (Read More Details in the Annexures Uploaded after the story)

The components of the project, expected to cost about Rs 9.7 crore, included a receiving facility, a compost plant, a recycling plant, a secured landfill, and a leachate collection unit

The aggrieved residents allege that none of this exists on the ground. Since 2016, the Municipal Council of Baddi started throwing waste on the site where this project was to be set up.

The illegal dumping came to the notice of the Environment Ministry ’s regional office during their half-yearly compliance monitoring visit about a year ago

The scientist, Dr Bhavna Singh, who visited the site had reported the violations and recommended an immediate suspension of dumping given non-compliance. However, the Pollution Control Board took no action on this front and the dumping continues to this day.

On July 19, 2018, we approached the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Deputy Commissioner of Solan, Secretary, Urban Development, the Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment about this gross negligence and have demanded that this illegal dumping be stopped and the site be immediately cleared,

said Rafiq, Deputy Secretary of the Samiti, also a member of the Gujjar Community.

The unscientific garbage dumping is posing a serious threat to not only the environment around but also to the 32 members of Gujjar families settled right in front of the dump yard. The Gujjar community is a scheduled tribe that practices their traditional livelihood of cattle rearing and are dependent on the public lands for purpose of grazing.

Baddi MC Dumping site

In addition, the dumping site is a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc. and has caused an alarming increase in the incident of illnesses even to people who live in the neighbouring villages.

We are also writing to the Scheduled Tribe Commission and will go to the court if there is no action by the authorities,

added Rafiq.

Members of the Samiti in the last month have initiated a mass RTI campaign asking authorities for information about the dump and the actions taken by them.

We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard,

added Dharampal, secretary of the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti.

Meanwhile, the BBNDA has gone into damage control mode and has made announcements about fogging the area regularly to prevent smell and flies.

These are superficial steps and they do not change the fact that for the last two years the authorities have been sleeping when actually they had ample time to construct a proper waste management plant if they wanted to. Our demand is clear that the waste can no longer be dumped here. The area needs to be cleared of all the dumped waste

, said Charan Das, a resident of Sandholi and Chairperson of the Samiti.

Annexure I – Environmental Clearance

Annexure II – Indemnification of Project and Project Proponent

Annexure III Monitoring Report by Dr.Bhawna-Singh

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Environment

PCB report on garbage discharge into Ashwani Khud points out Shimla’s poor SWM

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Ashwani Khud Inquiry report

Shimla: The seven-member committee constituted to probe the matter pertaining to a video that showed an enormous amount of plastic/solid waste floating in Ashwani Khud – the main drinking water supply source to Solan – could not ascertain the origin or culprit responsible for it.

The committee headed by the Environmental Engineer of the Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board (HPPCB), Surender Shandil, was formed after the National Green Tribunal took suo motto cognizance of the disturbing video clip shot by a local youth Abhay Sharma and uploaded on social media by the Healing Himalayas – a non-profit organization.

The video had gone viral on the social media and reached the national media. The video was retweeted over 1,000 times.

Abhay is self-employed and is also a member of the NGO, who took up the issue despite fearing that the administration might come after his business following the consequences of the blowing whistle. Abhay decided to fight for the cause and came ahead to rubbish government’s claims that the video was fake.

This whistleblower indeed made a difference. This video clipped had shocked everyone who saw it. It won’t be wrong to say that he sounded an alarm for all the Himalayan water sources/rivers.

Following it, the Tribunal had asked the Board to file a report regarding it within a week.

While district administration of Shimla and most of the government agencies had washed their hands off by simply terming the video clip as a fake, the team first verified that the video was indeed real. The video was recorded in Neri village and the panel has recorded the statements of the locals too.

In fact, the people were not able to believe that it could happen in a State like Himachal. They prayed the video to be fake but to their demise, it was not.

The locals have confirmed that it has become a routine to see solid waste floating in the Khud, but the situation was way far intense this time.

The PCB’s Engineer told Himachal Watcher that the inquiry was completed, and  its report would be submitted to the Tribunal. Though the report is not made public yet, Mr Shandil suggested that there is a high probability that the waste could have entered the stream from a large number of nullahs in the catchment area located in Shimla district.

The catchment area of the Khud is so large and there are so many nullahs within it that it was hard to spot a specific source. It has been raining heavily and there could be several reasons for the flooding of waste in it,

Mr. Shandil told HW.

He further suggested that during their visits to the catchment area, they did see garbage being washed away by rainwater and entering the nullahs.

The report would be finalized by today evening and submitted to the Tribunal,

he added.

The panel has also suggested that the waste could have emanated from the dumping ground in Slogra in Solan.

Earlier, the panel was suggesting that the garbage could have been dumped into the stream from a spot like Sadhupul through dumpers. 

However, there was no word regarding the discharge of the sewerage that was reported by Abhay. Abhay had told HW that the video could only show the solid waste floating on the water and could not give an idea of the smell of sewage that the water of the Khud was carrying with itself in addition to the garbage.

HW had posted additional video clips recorded on the same day by different individuals. One of the clips shows the water had turned dark in colour, which Abhay said, was due to sewage. 

Sewage in Ashwani Khud

The probe in the deadly jaundice outbreak in 2015, in which about three dozen people were killed, had revealed that the contractor of the Sewage Treatment Plant in Malyna, Shimla, was releasing a large amount of untreated sewage into Ashwani Khud, which was the cause of the outbreak. 

The Shimla Municipal Corporation had suspended the supply from Ashwani Khud following this deliberate genocide.

However, during the water scarcity in May-June this year, the SMC had resumed the supply from the Khud despite the fact that water samples were failing quality tests.

It is to be seen whether the PCB has also included sewage discharge in its inquiry report or not.

Further, as per the whistle-blower, the garbage flooded the Khud only when it rained heavy in Shimla. 

HW had also posted a video showing two nullahs located below the Krishna Nagar colony in Lalpani of Shimla city, which were entirely covered with solid waste. A number of nullahs including the one near the lift on Cart-Road could be seen filled with garbage, which flows down to the Khud with rainwater.

Other than that, the former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, had also pointed out the nullahs in the catchment area where a large amount of solid waste collected from panchayats is dumped.

However, the Deputy Commissioner of Shimla, Amit Kashyap had told HW that there is no such problem in the areas of Shimla falling under various panchayats. The waste management was perfectly fine in both the rural as well as in the city, he had claimed.
The PCB’s report, if the initial information is to be believed, largely suggests that poor or no solid waste management in Shimla’s catchment could be blamed for it.

The Ashwani Khad episode has raised concerns about the ill attitude of the locals, tourists, and the government towards the growing problem of managing solid waste in the State.

Littering by tourists along National Highway 21 also produce a large amount of garbage which ends up in nullahs. The civic body or the local administrations hardly have any strategies in hand to deal with littering and unlawful dumping of garbage. 

At the same time, the matter also questions awareness and the inaction of State PCB regarding poor solid waste management and improper dumping in the State.  

 

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Public health in Shimla town still at risk as MC’s drinking water samples again fail quality tests

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Shimla water samples in 2018

Shimla: An advisory has been issued by the Shimla Municipal Corporation to boil drinking water as a precaution as samples of several sources including tanks and tube wells have been found contaminated with Citrobacter, Klebsiella oxytoca and Pseudomonas ssp bacteria.

These bacterias are associated with serious health problems including physical diseases to infections in various parts of the body.

As per the latest report released by the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Citrobacter bacteria was found in the samples taken from the public tap on Sanjauli Chowk and in Tibetan colony in Nabah and water tank in Phagli.

The samples taken from the water tank in Sector 3 of New Shimla were contaminated with Klebsiella oxytoca bacteria.

Despite spending on the installation of Ultra Violet water treatment technology, the samples of the Ashwani Khud keep failing the quality tests. The treated and untreated samples taken from Ashwani Khud contained Pseudomonas spp and Citrobacter, thus, failed the test.

Scroll Down to Read About Diseases/Infections Causes by These Bacterias

As a matter of serious concern, a video of showing the gigantic amount of plastic/solid waste and sewerage floating in the Khud that had gone viral on social media shows that the degradation of this source had only increased.

 

Further, samples taken from a hand pump in Chalaunthi and Engine Ghar were also found contaminated.

The Chau\launthi bawari and Bir Khana bawari in Kanlog also failed the test.

The samples were collected between 14 to 17 July.

The SMC, on the other hand, suggested that there could be some error in collecting samples and the water would be tested again.

The promises of the current SMC to provide clean and regular drinking water supply have fallen flat on their face. The Corporation is spending on water treatment technologies blindly without going into details of the causes that are leading to water contamination.

Former Mayor of Shimla and leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sanjay Chauhan, condemned the act of putting public health at risk by supplying contaminated water to the citizens. He also questioned spending on expensive Ultra Violet Technology to treat water of Ashwani Khud as the samples of the same are still failing.

We can see in the reports also that samples of UV treated water have failed,

Sanjay pointed out

Malyana STP is almost redundant and about 4.5 MLD raw and untreated sewer water is released in the Ashwini Khud from this STP. It can’t be even treated with UV treatment,

he said when asked why spending on UV technology was in vain.

Moreover, it can’t be foolproof because of our lousy handling of plants and pumping stations. Nowhere in the world sewer treated water used for drinking. It’s used for agricultural and other purposes,

he added.

The SMC is still rationing water supply. While most of the localities are supplied water after a gap of one day, some localities complained they were still receiving even rationed supply regularly, he said.

Currently, the city requires 30 MLD water per day to meet the total demand and MC is receiving 40-45 MLD water per day, but still the public is not receiving regular water supply, Sanjay said.

The water pumps at the supply schemes are shut down for several hours as storage tanks of the Corporation remain full, which could be easily avoided if the town is given daily supply. 

Further, Sanjay also pointed out that the SMC has decided to cancel the Greater Shimla Water Supply & Sewerage Circle (GSWSSC) and to hand over the water supply in the municipal area to a newly formed private company. However,  no attention was paid on improving the quality of the water, he said.

The MC should learn from the way the privatization of sanitation works is already heading towards a failure even before it could be implemented in the entire town.

The CPI(M) has demanded supply of clean water supply to the town and the revival of the GSWSSC instead of handing the supply to private hands, which, it expects, would only worsen the situation.

Otherwise, the party warned the government of public protests.

The Ward Councilors and the Deputy Mayor recently visited Kerala as a study tour, if the SMC to be believed. The MC claimed it studied the methodology of the civic bodies of the State to learn how to supply 24×7 water. It further claimed, it would implement the same in Shimla town and by October, some of the Wards would start to get non-stop supply.

In reality, that credit would go to the ongoing Kol Dam project that has faced a delay of over five years before it was taken up following the severe scarcity of drinking water in the town.

Currently, the civic body needs to focus on the issue of contamination of drinking water supply. The public money must be spent judiciously while buying more technologies for the treatment of water. The government departments need to take up the task of conducting research studies/surveys to comprehend the real problem and buy a suitable technology or take steps accordingly.

Diseases Caused by Citrobacter Bacteria

The members of this species can cause several infections and diseases primarily in neonates and individuals with a weak immune system. It can cause nosocomial infections of the respiratory tract, urinary tract, and the blood. Further, Citrobacter is the well-identified cause of sporadic pneumonia, Hepatic, biliary and pancreatic disease, and neonatal sepsis and meningitis.

The mortality rate of Citrobacter meningitis is unacceptably high, with death rates of patients ranging from 25 to 50 %. About 75 percent of the survivors face serious neurological problems.

Diseases/infections caused by Klebsiella oxytoca

Klebsiella also targets individual with a weak immune system including diabetic patients, alcoholics, those using catheter tube, antibiotics for long time and ventilators.

Klebsiella normally lives inside the human intestine but it does not cause any disease in the intestine. Klebsiella causes a range of illness to the human body including, pneumonia, wound infection, surgical site infection, bloodstream infection, urinary tract infection and meningitis.

Diseases/infections caused by Pseudomonas ssp bacteria

As opportunistic pathogens, Pseudomonas spp. often invades the host tissue and cause infection and bacteremia in immunocompromised hosts (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, burns, malignancy, or diabetes mellitus)

The common site of infection is the lower respiratory tract, and severity ranges from colonization without immunological response to severe necrotizing bronchopneumonia.

It’s also a common cause of nosocomial ventilator-related pneumonia. Infections also include endocarditis, osteomyelitis, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, meningitis, and, commonly, septicaemia.

The symptoms depend on the location of the infection in all three cases. However, some of the common symptoms include fever, flu symptoms, breathing issues and cough.

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