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Health hazard haunts Shimla city as garbage collection heads towards total collapse

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Shimla SHEB Society Strike

Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers for their demand of hike saying they were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India. Surprisingly, now he supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands. 

Shimla: The Shimla Municipal Corporation has issued a notice warming the striking workers of the Shimla Environment, Heritage and Beautification (SHEB) Society to resume the work by Sept 21.

Otherwise, it cautioned the workers, the door-to-door garbage collection work will be outsourced. A proposal regarding the same was floating in the MC House recently. The decision was taken in a meeting of governing body held on September 19. 

On the other hand, the workers said they will prefer mass resignation than ending the strike. President of the SHEB Society, Jaswant Singh, warned the drivers who are still collecting garbage from collection points will also join the strike from Thursday. 

Shimla MC hardly has any backup plan to deal with such a situation, which can worsen the sanitation situation of Shimla. It would imply that no garbage would be collected even from collection points. 

This situation could lead to sanitation crisis and health hazards related to poor sanitation. 

The residents were hopeful that the sanitation workers would end their strike after the seventh annual general meeting (AGM) of the Society on September 18. The Urban Development Minister, Sudhir Sharma, had presided over AGM after the civic body had said he would take the final call over the demands of the striking workers.

The minister gave nod to only 10 percent hike with an assurance that a proposal for a policy recommending 10 percent annual hike in wages will be sent to the government for an approval. 

The civic body had expressed its inability to hike their wages due to financial crunch. SMC said it is earning much less than it is spending on SHEB Society. 

However, the workers continued their strike as the AGM failed to satisfy them to resume work. 

 

What do SHEB Workers Want?

After seven years of formation of SHEB Society and implementation of door-to-door garbage collection service, the capital city is still struggling with management of solid waste. Though Shimla city did not remain free from littering, the service had proved beneficial in waste management. 

The workers are on strike again and the public is feeling free to burn or throw their garbage in forests or in nullahs. The garbage is scattered on roadsides raising a stink. People are not convenient in carrying their garbage daily to collection points.  

Unfortunately, as the MC had declared the city as ‘dumper free’ and removed most of the dumpers claiming the door-to-door service was working at 100 percent efficiency, and that there was no need of dumpers.

After a while, the SMC had to place dumpers at some places, and as the current circumstances suggest, MC might need to bring the “dumper method” back.

People, from one locality or other, always complained irregularity in the working of the SHEB Society workers.

However, since 2015, SHEB workers have gone on strike several times over their demands regarding regularization under Shimla Municipal Corporation, as promised to them. The SHEB workers also demanded the corporation to provide them information regarding the recruitment, ESI, Employee Provident Fund accounts etc.

The SHEB Society had alleged then Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, and Deputy Mayor, Tikender Singh Panwar, of harassing the workers by not regularizing them under the MC.

In 2010, a door-to-door garbage collector was receiving Rs. 3300 as monthly salary. In 2015, the salary was increased to 7,700. With this hike in their wages went up the cost of service for the residents and clients who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. These charges were between Rs 50 to Rs 1,000 per month depending upon the category.

These allegations were rubbished by then-Deputy Mayor. He had explained that the workers do not understand that only state government is eligible for taking such decisions.

SHEB workers had also alleged the SMC and the Urban Development Department ignoring their health. They had alleged the civic body did not provide them with gloves, proper carry-bags, raincoats etc. The president of the society said 19 workers have died and several others are suffering from jaundice. However, he said, they have not received any relief from the civic body. 

In 2015, the SMC had to issue a warning to the workers to join their duty back or face termination under Essential Services Maintenance Act. Notices were also issued to several workers.

Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers over their strike regarding the merger in the MC as regular employees. He had said the workers were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India.

He supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands.

In 2017, the workers again went on strike multiple times, which lead to the creation of ugly scene as garbage heaps and littering increased. 

This tug-of-war between the civic body and the workers continues in September 2017 too. The workers have locked horns with the SMC over their demands which include a minimum wage of Rs. 10,500 per month.

The workers say they are currently receiving Rs 6,700 per month, which is not sufficient to meet ends.

If the government can increase the salaries of officers and ministers by 50 percent or even 100 percent, why it does not make a 10 percent hike for poor like us who do menial jobs,

said workers in a statement to media.

Waste Management/Segregation Still a Distant Dream

Door-to-door garbage collection service that now covers not only 38,000 residential buildings but also the beneficiaries who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. in all 34 wards, is best suited for a hilly region like Shimla.

Majority of houses are not connected to roads in Shimla city, therefore, garbage collection is not possible through vehicles.

The SHEB society was formed in 2010 after the High Court had directed the civic body to make proper policy for collection and segregation of non-biodegradable and bio-degradable garbage at the household level.

Back then, the citizens were given a yellow dustbin for non-biodegradable waste, i.e. plastic, metal, stone etc. and green dustbins for bio-degradable waste, i.e. raw and waste foodstuff, paper etc.

In 2017, waste segregation remains a distant dream as the civic body is not even able to collect garbage. Eventually, now there is a great probability that the door-to-door garbage collection work will be given to a private contractor or some NGO.

Neverthless, till the things come back on track, residents should support the corporation by not taking it for granted to dispose of garbage in forests or nulluhas or burn it to pollute air because door-to-door garbage collectors are on strike. To keep your own city clean and prevent the health hazards, try to carry the garbage to the collection  points to make it easier for the corporation to transport it through vehicles.

If it is not picked up from these collection points, then there is every reason to criticise the civic body.   

Here is the list of ward-wise list of contact numbers of the Nodal Officers appointed by the MC to look after the removal of garbage from various collection points: 

 

Ward                   Mobile Number

Bharari                  8679773967

Ruldbhatta          9418233114

Kaithu                   9816588002

Annadel               9459148055

Summerhill         9459153459

Totu                       9419090195

Majhyath            9418376919

Boileauganj        9817151277

Kachhi Ghati       9459743003

Tutikandi             9418344254

Nabha                   9318727372

Fagali                     9418627780

Krishna Nagar   8894126752

Ram Bazaar         9418029908

Lower Bazaar     9418014593

Jakhu                    888810728

Benmore             9459753722

Engine Ghar        9418016782

Sanjauli Chowk   9817222688

Upper Dhalli        9418064474

Lower Dhali         9418608263

Shanit Vihar        9418038021

Bhattakuffar       9418044534

Sangti                    9418780891

Malyana               9418458702

Panthaghati         9418474747

Kasumpti             8679637396

Chotta Shimla    9418092015

Vikasnagar           9418090790

Patiyog (पटियोग )9816316754

New Shimla        9418062620

Khalini                   9418486558

Kanlog                  9816035624

 

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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Himachal Gets First Fully Automated ‘Doppler Weather Radar’, Would Provide More Accurate Short Range Forecast

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Dopper Weather Radar in Himachal Pradesh's Kufari

Shimla-India Meteorological Department (IMD) January 15, 2021, celebrated its 146th Foundation Day. IMD is one of the oldest, scientific service organizations in the country, in existence well before Independence.

On the occasion, Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Doppler Weather Radars at Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand and Kufri, Himachal Pradesh; Multi-Mission Meteorological Data Receiving and Processing System in IMD in collaboration with ISRO (MMDRPS).

According to the IMD, these modernized Radars would give a more specific short-range weather forecast.

It’s pertinent to mention that accurate and advance weather information is of utmost importance to Himachal Pradesh – a state largely dependent on agriculture and tourism.

The one installed in Kufari, Shimla, is Indigenous dual polarised X-Band Doppler Weather Radar. Two more Radars would be installed at Mandi and Dalhousie in Chamba district of the State. A site had already been finalized at Mandi and a site for Radar at Dalhousie would be finalized soon, the State Government informed.

This specific type of Radar uses the Doppler effect to gather velocity data. The Radar transmits a signal, which gets reflected when hits a raindrop. Based on the changes in the frequency of the reflected signal, data is obtained about the motion of droplets and intensity of the precipitation. Scientists can analyze this data to determine the structure and severity of storms.

Radar installed at Kufri is on test mode for a period of two weeks. Thereafter its data would be used for forecasting purposes. This Radar has a range upto 100 kilometres in radial distance. It would observe and provide the weather data of 100 kilometres in all directions, which would be used for forecasting purpose, especially for the short-range forecast. More précised area-specific weather forecast and warning can be issued for a particular place, for the weather phenomenon like thunderstorm, lighting, hailstorm, heavy rainfall/snowfall, gusty winds etc.    

This Centre would help the horticulturists and farmers of the State by providing them with accurate weather information.

The DWR Kufri would run round the clock and it is fully automatic. It would transmit the data in various digital format and picture form.

 Forecasting monsoons is the lifeline to India’s food security and affect the economy as the nation’s GDP is dependent on agriculture. Moreover, weather prediction is critical to reducing the loss of lives from various extreme events like a cyclone, heavy rain, thunderstorm, heatwave and cold wave, monsoonal floods and droughts.

India Meteorological Department says that it is modernizing its observational network in the Central and Western Himalayas by the installation of Doppler Weather Radars in a phased manner, at different locations.

IMD said that this radar will be providing severe weather information to the weather forecasters, thus, improving the safety of the public in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. It will also provide support to the disaster managers and the pilgrims undertaking the pilgrimage to Kailash Manasarovar and Char Dham yatra. 

 

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