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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.

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

Govt Legitimizing and Legalizing Environmental Violations for Business by Amending EIA Rules: Activists  

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Himachal pradesh EIA Notification 2020 Amendments news

Shimla-While in statements, the politicians in power at the Centre and State Governments have been expressing concerns over environmental issues and ensuring the people that they are committed to protect and preserve the environment, the reality is contrary to it. The most recent evidence is the proposed 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification. With these amendments, the process of environmental assessment before granting permission to execute commercial projects, like hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, would be reduced to merely a formality.

Environmental activists and people’s organisations from across Himachal have written to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to scrap the 2020 draft amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification proposed by it.

These activists and environmental protection groups are of the opinion that the EIA Notification, first issued in 1994 under the Environment Protection Act 1986, is a critical mechanism that regulates clearances granted to all kinds of development projects and economic activities in the country. It is one of the environmental decision-making processes that makes it mandatory for project developers to not just study the socio-economic, ecological and other impacts of a proposed project but also place them in front of the affected communities for their opinions and objections, thus, ensuring the process of a free, fair and informed consent. However, this notification has been amended and read down several times in the last two decades, in favour of ‘easing the norms’ for business. The latest draft continues to move in the direction of rendering the EIA process a mere formality. 

The submission made by HP groups states,

“In the context of the already vulnerable and sensitive Himalayan region, flouting of various provisions of even the present EIA notification has heavily impacted the local ecology and livelihoods of the people. The new amendments will only legitimize and legalize these violations and this will mean irreparable damage to the Himalayan ecosystem”. 

The key objections raised are around exemptions of a variety of projects from the mandatory  Public Consultation’ process as well as the dismantling of this process itself.

“The reduction of the time prior to public hearing from 30 to 20 days is also highly objectionable. In the given 30 day period itself, the information about Public hearings does not reach all the affected areas which are often spread out widely in case of mountains with some project-affected communities residing in remote and inaccessible terrains. Here accessing information takes a long time and reducing this time to 20 days will completely exclude such people from raising their grievances and suggestions in the public consultation. This is a clear attempt to block their participation in the environmental decision-making process”

said R.S Negi of Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur. 

 

“It is shocking that the amendments include allowing post-facto clearance, which means that the project proponent can start work and before they have obtained environmental clearance. If the basic precautionary principle on which the EIA notifications is grounded is itself not followed it can lead to a disastrous situation for the ecology and local people. In this situation who is going to be responsible for the losses? If the project proponent is not in a position to pay for losses, will the MoEF&CC take the responsibility of losses? This provision will encourage project developers to bypass the process of environmental decision making. We absolutely oppose this amendment”,

said Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective.  

The 2020 draft also dilutes the guidelines for monitoring and compliance of Environment conditions.

“Already the system of monitoring is weak, the conditions lose, the pollution control board and companies non-accountable, thus, leading to widespread destruction of local ecology and impacting health, lives, and livelihoods of project-affected communities. In the case of hydropower projects, for instance, the illegal and unmonitored dumping of muck along river beds, in forests and on common lands, has damaged pastures, disrupted the flow of the rivers, and caused massive disasters when floods occur. The proposed changes will give a free reign to those profiting from extractive and polluting projects,” 

according to Kulbhushan Upmanyu of Himalaya Bachao Samiti. 

It is ironic that on one hand, the global COVID crisis has thrown up several studies showing that pandemics like COVID emerge from ecological degradation and forest loss, and on the government is pushing for policy changes which will accentuate the environmental crisis that the country is already reeling under.  

“If the MoEF&CC wants to change the environmental laws, it should carry out countrywide regional consultations”,

added Uma Mahajan of Himachal Van Adhikar Manch.

The country, especially ecologically diverse yet climate-vulnerable regions like the Himalayas need a robust and strong environmental regulatory and governance regime that makes project proponents accountable and keeps the affected communities and ecological concerns at the centre of the EIA and environmental decision-making process. 

Notably, MoEF&CC had called for citizen’s comments before May 11 but this deadline was extended upto  June 30 and now August 11 as environmentalists and concerned groups expressed outrage that calling for public inputs on this critical law amidst the COVID led lockdown was unjustified. The MoEF&CC has in this period received thousands of objections highlighting the new draft as anti-people and environment.

The demand is to scrap these proposed amendments for the sake of the environment. 

Submission Made to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by Activists and Organizations

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SC’s Forest Diversion Regulation a Blockade on Forest Rights Act Implementation in Himachal: Himdhara

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Supreme Court On Forest Diversion in Himachal Pradesh 2

ShimlaHimdhara Collective, a Himachal-based environment research and action group, has released a report on the implications of the regulation imposed by the Supreme Court on forest diversion under the Forest Rights Act 2006 in Himachal, through a series of orders passed last year. This brought to a screeching halt the implementation of Section 3(2) of the FRA which grants powers to gram sabhas and Divisional Forest Officers to divert upto 1 hectare of forest land for 13 types of village welfare activities like roads, schools, community centres, PDS shops etc. 

The court orders were based on the conclusions drawn by a Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, headed by a retired PCCF, V.P Mohan, that the diversions were leading to green felling and deforestation in the state. Initially, a stay was imposed on all green felling in the state (in a matter of forest diversions under FCA 1980 and FRA 2006) on 11th March 2019. This stay was partially relaxed but the Supreme court sought all FRA proposals to be brought before it for further diversion.

The report titled ‘Missing the forest for Trees’, assesses the ground reality behind the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee based on which these diversions have been restricted.

“We have found that the Supreme court’s orders need to be reviewed because the alarm raised by the V.P Mohan committee with regard to FRA was a false one”,

stated authors of the report which is based on analysis of RTI information as well as field research.

RTI data sought from the Forest department for all cases under section 3(2) of the Forest Rights Act 2006 from 2014 to 2019 (up to January 2019), was analysed to reveal that 17237 trees were felled in an area of 887.56 hectares for 1959 activities in 41 of the 45 forest divisions of the state.

Roads, followed by schools and community centres dominate the type of activities carried out. Of the total land diverted 91% is for roads. It was found that almost 64% of these diversions showed ‘nil’ trees felled. The average number of trees felled per hectare is very low (19.52) and it may be induced that most activities have been carried out in areas with open forest or no trees.

Rohru (Shimla), Nachan(Mandi), Kinnaur and Chopal were some of the divisions which had a large number of diversions, again mostly for roads.

Case studies we carried out in Mandi and Kangra district showed the desperate need for amenities like village link roads and schools. In Himachal, there remain about 41% villages that have no road connectivity which affects access to health, education and market centres.

On the other hand, large development activities like four lane highways, hydropower projects and transmission lines, have had a much larger ecological footprint in terms of tree loss in the state compared to the very minute, incomparable diversions under FRA.

The report also finds that as far as green cover is concerned in the period corresponding to the high number of forest diversions under FRA (2015-2019), the forest survey of India’s statistics show a 333 sq.km increase in the forest cover.

Why development rights under FRA important for Himachal?

1.No Land available with revenue departments and panchayats for ‘welfare activities’ thus forest land only option

The report concludes that given the fact that 2/3rd of the geographical area of the state is recorded ‘forest area’ where strict forest laws have restricted non-forest use, the FRA provides relief for communities to access basic welfare facilities, which should be seen as their fundamental right and therefore should not be hindered.

2.Cumbersome, costly and lengthy process under FCA 1980

Before FRA it was the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which governed forest diversion even for small local development activities. This required not only permission from the Central Government (MoEFCC Regional or Delhi Office) but also warranted that user agencies deposit funds (Net Present Value of trees) to carry out Compensatory Afforestation. The whole diversion process under FCA was cumbersome, lengthy and costly, and thus a major hurdle in providing the rural areas, especially remote areas, access to basic welfare development facilities.

 “The section 3(2) of the FRA provides relief for both governmental departments and local communities as it overrides the FCA and puts in place a simple and decentralized process for diversion”states the report.

3.FRA is meant to correct the problems that were posed by strict central forest laws

The Forest Rights Act was passed by the parliament of India in 2006 recognising that across the country there are lakhs of communities dependent on land which is legally categorised as ‘forest land’ and are unable to exercise their basic livelihood and development rights due to extremely strict forest laws. Under this act’s Section 3(1), forest-dependent communities can file claims for their individual and community rights exercised before the cut-off date of 13th December 2005.

“As it is Himachal has been sluggish with FRA implementation and only 136 titles have been issued under section 3(1). But atleast the government was proactive with the implementation of section 3(2). With the Supreme court orders regulating this provision, there seems to be an impression amongst the implementing agencies and officials that there is an over-all blockade on FRA in the state”

added members of the collective.

The report has recommended that the state government and nodal agency for the Act – the Central Ministry of Tribal Affairs, put forth the case in favour of section 3(2) of the FRA strongly in front of the Supreme Court and also move swiftly to ensure implementation of all provisions of this law in Himachal.  

 

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HP Govt Exempts Use of Plastic Straws Attached with Beverages for 6 Months

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Plastic straws in himachla pradesh

Shimla: The use of integrated plastic straws attached with tetra pack of beverages are exempted temporarily for a period of six months in Himachal Pradesh, informed a spokesperson of the state government on January 31, 2020.

He informed that the exemption would be a subject to the implementation of Action Plan submitted by M/s Tetra Pack India Pvt. Ltd., AARC under Extended Producer Responsibility.

During the relaxation period, the manufacturers and producers are to come out with an alternative to plastic straw, which is bio-degradable, he informed. A notification in this regard has been issued recently.

He said that other provisions of the notification issued by Department of Environment, Science and Technology of HP on September 20, 2019, which imposes complete ban on plastic cutlery such as spoons, bowls, katories, stirring sticks, forks, knives, straws made of plastic, would remain banned.

He said that this notification will come into force with immediate effect.

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