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Satluj environmental impact report still not complete, but Himachal continues granting clearance to more hydropower projects

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Luhri hydropower project in rampur

Shimla: As per the Scientific American – the leading and one of the oldest science and technology magazine of the United States of America, the country has decommissioned as well as removed at least 1,000 dams so far, and several others are under the process of decommissioning. The removal of dams is costing the US a gigantic amount of money, but still, it is taking the pain to do the needful.

The reason was simple – the adverse and irreversible environmental damages of these dams. The Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC), a joint platform comprising of 150 environmental groups, had been advocating the removal of the dams due to their impacts on the environment including the aquatic life.

On the other hand, in the State of Himachal Pradesh, blessed with five perennial rivers including the longest Sutlej, in addition to already operational projects, the government is trying to sell over 700 projects by inviting private investors.

The government argues that hydropower projects have given the state economy a boost along with creating employment opportunities. After agriculture and tourism, hydropower is the biggest contributor towards the state economy. Moreover, hydropower is ecofriendly.

However, the government does not want to stop here and is targeting to harness 100 per cent of the total power generating capacity. During Congress government, it was officially stated that a hydropower potential of 27436 MW was identified in the state. The state was harnessing only 10351 MW.

During the tenure of the Congress government, Himachal had commissioned about 31 hydropower projects of 2067 MW capacity and had earned a revenue of Rs. 3345 crore from the sale of free and equity power.

The new Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, after coming into power, had said that the hydropower projects were facing difficulties in getting clearances. He had announced that all such hurdles would be removed under the new government. There were no words about the impact on the environment at all.

The environmental protection has never been a matter of concern for both Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party governments in the state. The leaders are completely visionless in this regard, which is why the environmental impacts of the hydroporjects remain absent from the list of major poll agendas.  

The latest project in making is the new venture of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL); the Luhri Stage -I hydropower project (219 MW) on the last free-flowing stretch of the River Sutlej.

The environmental activists and groups are up in arms against the construction of more dams for the projects. The feedback from previous projects has shown that these projects did have an adverse effect. The project is proposed downstream of the 420 MW Rampur Project in Shimla and Kullu Districts.

Environmental group reaches the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment

Raising objections to the granting of clearances to dams on the last free-flowing stretch of the Satluj River, the Himdhara Collective, an environmental group, recently sent a submission to the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment demanding Cumulative Impact Assessment for individual projects on the Satluj river basin.

The committee, in its meeting to be held on August 28, 2018, is to consider the grant of Environment Clearance for SJVNL’s Luhri project. It’s the same project that was dropped after the SJVN faced resistance from the locals. Earlier, there was a proposal to construct a 750 MW project with a 35 km long tunnel in this stretch.

It was due to the objections of the local community that the massive tunnel will disturb the geology of the region, already prone to landslides that the project was dropped,

the submission said.

Instead, the HP government has now allocated three dams, namely, Luhri Stage I and Luhri stage II (163MW) and Sunni (355MW) in the same stretch. The key objection raised in the submission is that the committee instead of studying the overall impact of the three projects put together was looking at each project in a singular way.

70% of land granted for the project is forest area

The total land requirement for the three proposed projects is 654.02 hectares, which is twice the size of the land required for the earlier proposed 750 MW project. Considering 70% of the required land falls in the category of ‘forest’, this would lead to more deforestation in the Satluj River basin which has already faced severe forest diversion, erosion and slope de-stabilisation.

The move to build bumper to bumper dams on a single river basin is destructive and this is the reason why we have been saying that the Ministry of Environment should look at the cumulative impacts of the dams rather than for individual projects,

the environmental group stated in the submission.

The Govt denies reply to RTI seeking information on the CEIA Report

In 2013, on clear directions from the Ministry of Environment, the HP Directorate of Energy had commissioned Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment (CEIA) studies for all the major river basins of Himachal Pradesh. The process for Satluj river basin was initiated first in 2013. A series of public consultations were held in Pooh, Rekong Peo, Rampur where local communities and environmentalists had filed detailed objections.

The group said the DoE had even appointed an independent Panel of Environmental and Social Experts, which had submitted a damning report to the HP Government in 2015, raising that the state government was apathetic to the adverse impacts these projects had on the lives of local communities. However, since then, there has been complete silence on the CEIA study of Satluj river basin.

In 2017 we filed an RTI to the DoE seeking the final report, but the matter was transferred to the Union Ministry of Environment who did not respond despite appeal in the Central Information Commission. The matter is now pending in the Central Information Commission,

Himdhara members said in the submission.

For the last three years, the Expert Committee of the ministry has been according to clearances to hydro projects on the Satluj without even as much as mentioning the Cumulative Impact study that it itself had made mandatory to be conducted.

The CEIA should have a bearing on the decision to be taken in the Luhri I, II and Sunni HEP, else the exercise (CEIA of Satluj river basin) itself will be rendered meaningless given that, in the middle zone of the Satluj river basin this is the last and the only stretch of the free-flowing Satluj river.

the group said.

The group has demanded that the CEIA of Satluj river basin should be first finalized, and till then, all projects on the Satluj river basin must be put on hold. The issue of dam building in the Himalayas has also now become a major concern amongst mountain communities and environmentalists given the threat of disasters like cloudbursts floods and earthquakes to the lives and economy of the region.

However, the SJVNL terms these arguments as a non-sense saying there would be no tunnelling for the project. The company, like the centre and state governments, has as nothing to say about the CEIA report. Why is the government not finalizing the report and making it public if there is nothing wrong with the construction of the new projects?

Read Complete Submission

Environment

Himachal Start-up Develops Pure Organic Incense From Offered Flowers, Contains No Charcoal or Chemicals

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Organic incense from flowers by Himachal start-up

Solan-Soon the people will be able to buy pure organic incense sticks prepared from flowers offered by devotees at religious places. Under the campaign ‘Yuvan’, Una based entrepreneur Ravinder Prashar, with the technical guidance from the scientists of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, has developed this eco-friendly incense sticks by utilizing flower offerings from temples.

The idea, supported under the Chief Minister’s Startup scheme aims to provide a novel solution to the problem of disposal of flowers offered by devotees at places of worship. Moreover, these flowers used in religious places and functions also get a new life in the form of incense sticks.

Ravinder, who has completed his Bachelor degree Engineering from BITS Pilani had registered a company –Yuvan Vendors during the last semester of his MBA. Thereafter, he took up this with the CM Start-Up Scheme of the state. On approval, UHF’s Department of Floriculture and Landscape Architecture was allotted to him as his incubator.

At UHF, the product was developed under the mentorship of Dr Bharti Kashyap, who along with Dr YC Gupta and Dr Manoj Vaidya provided the scientific input in product development. The testing for the product was done at the Floral Craft Lab of the university. 

The process uses natural portions and essential oils from flowers to make the organic incense with no charcoal or any other synthetic chemical. In addition, the process of making the stick is completely carbon neutral. No waste is generated from this process and even the unused portions of the flowers are being utilized to make compost.

The company has already developed five fragrances including rose, sandal and lavender. All the sticks are rolled with hand. These will be available to the customers from June onwards. UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma recently launched the incense sticks during the rose festival of the university.

Ravinder thanked the CM Start-Up Scheme, university and its scientists for their guidance and support in making the product a reality. He said,

The objective was to utilize the pious flowers from the temples and utilize them to make organic incense sticks. Through this, we also wanted to provide an alternative to the disposal of these flowers in open areas and drains.

Congratulating Ravinder and the university scientists on their achievement, Dr HC Sharma, University Vice-Chancellor said,

It is very heartening to see young entrepreneurs coming up with novel ideas that not only generate jobs but also address some problems the society faces. The university regularly helps farmers to establish new enterprises through the dissemination of information and transfer of technology and will continue to support such initiatives in the future as well.

Dr Sharma was of the view that in order to give respect to the agricultural profession, people particularly the youngsters will have to take up entrepreneurship in this field.

The startup scheme envisages practical exposure, orientation training, entrepreneurial guidance and handholding to potential entrepreneurs whose projects are approved. Once a project is recommended by the host institution and approved by the empowered committee, monthly support is provided as sustenance allowance for one year. One such incubation centre was established at UHF in 2017. The centres support startups and innovation by providing mentoring services, access to their labs, facilities on a free-of-cost basis.

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It’ll Take $100 Billion a Year To Stop Very First Human-Made Biodiversity Catastrophe: Scientists

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Cost of saving biodiversity on earth

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth. But in the 21st century, scientists now estimate that society must urgently come to grips this coming decade to stop the very first human-made biodiversity catastrophe.

“The sixth extinction is on our societyʻs shoulders; it really is,” said ecologist Greg Asner, who serves on the faculty of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the School of Earth and Space Exploration and came to Arizona State University this past January to lead the new Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science.

“We have to make a decision about where to save biodiversity, and where to let it go,” said Asner. “That’s where we are now. We are playing that game as a society. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to that point because we are dominating the planet.”

Asner is one of 19 international authors with a bold new science policy proposal to reverse the tide, called A Global Deal for Nature (GDN). The policy’s mission is simple: Save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth — for the price tag of $100 billion a year.

“It’s not a huge price tag,” said Asner. “That’s not a pie-in-the-sky number, but one we had to meet on and agree on. I know that those numbers are not outlandish.”

Consider that in 2018 alone, the top two most profitable U.S. companies, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway, almost matched that amount. What’s the price of saving the Earth by comparison?

Societal investment in the GDN plan would, for the first time, integrate and implement climate and nature deals on a global scale to avoid human upheaval and biodiversity loss.

While the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was the first major accord to take global action toward climate change policies, the international team of GDN scientists believe a similar companion pact is desperately needed to implement the very first global nature conservation plan to meet these challenges.

“All nations have signed on to this (Paris) agreement,” wrote corresponding author Eric Dinerstein, of the Washington, D.C.-based nongovernmental organization Resolve. “But the Paris agreement is only a half-deal; it will not alone save the diversity of life on Earth or conserve ecosystem services upon which humanity depends.

“The Global Deal for Nature is a time-bound, science-based plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. Without the Global Deal for Nature, the goals of the Paris climate deal become unreachable; worse, we face the unraveling of the Earth’s natural ecosystems that sustain human life. Achieving the milestones and targets of the Global Deal for Nature is the best gift we can offer to future generations — an environmental reset, a pathway to an Eden 2.0. We must seize this hopeful pathway.”

The study, published in Science Advances, titled “A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets”

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Environment

Group of Youth Try Cleaning Part of Shimla’s Jakhu Hill, Finds More Garbage Than Expected

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Trek A Tribe Cleanliness Driver in Shimla

Shimla-Every year on April 15, Himachal Day is celebrated to mark the day when Himachal Pradesh, among other 30 princely states, came into being as a centrally administered territory. Since the inception of this state, the people throughout the world have admired Himachal Pradesh owing to its tall standing mountains, forests, nature, adventurous trekking trails and the peace and serenity it offers.

However, during the last decade, this love and admiration from tourists have turned into filth and carelessness. Rivers and forests alike have been polluted by broken beer bottles, single-use plastic cups, water bottles, wrappers of crisps and biscuit. Not only do they harm the soil, but also poses a threat to the lives of animals like cows and dogs, who consume littered plastic, causing them extreme physical ailments.

The menace of littering continues despite the claims of the civic bodies as well as the government of India that Swachh Bharat has almost eradicated this ill practice.

As an initiative Trek A Tribe, a tours and travels company, organized a cleanliness drive at Shimla on April 15, 2019 to celebrate Himachal Day. Total 18 youth participated in the cleanliness campaign. As per this team, the campaign began from Sheeshe Wali Kothi and was supposed to end at Jakhu Temple. But they had to abandon their plan of going till the top since the amount of waste was much more than these youth had expected.

Just the starting point consumed over four hours of their drive. We collected 35 bags of garbage at the starting point of their drive,

the team said.

Most of the trash is the plastic left behind by youth who come to the forest to drink and eat, causing harm to the environment,

the team said.

The end solution, however, does not lay in repetitive cleanliness drives, but in the conscious awareness of the people. They should be aware enough to not leave their trash behind, it said.  

These cleanliness drives, the team said, do help in cleaning the surroundings but they do not solve the purpose if the people keep littering the same place over and again. The team said that the purpose of its cleanliness drive was also to raise awareness among the people by initiating a dialogue towards the protection of the environment. This drive urged people to raise voice against plastic pollution and to lead their lives more consciously. They need a more aware lifestyle.

The Municipal Corporation, Shimla, provided transportation and disposal facility for the garbage collected by these youth.

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