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- 150 industrial units shut down in MIDC last yr: RTI Vaibhav Ganjapure| TNN | May 18, 2018, 03:18 IST
Nagpur: Even as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and union minister Nitin Gadkari are making efforts to promote the city as an investment destination and are wooing the investors, the existing industries are in dire straits and are facing closure.
An RTI query disclosed that about 147 industries in Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) closed down between January 1 last year and March 31 this year. “The global slowdown coupled with demonetisation had already broken their back while GST implementation was the last nail in their coffin,” said MIDC Industries Association (MIA) President Chandra Mohan Randheer.
The reply given by MIDC officials to RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar’s queries mentioned that about 1,370 units are under its jurisdiction, of which 1,152 are running. The office at Civil Lines had issued notices to 40 units that were shut down while cases are underway against two of them. They, however, failed to inform about proposals for opening new units in the MIDC stating that those were allotted lands based on tendering process.
The officials further informed that the corporation earned a revenue of Rs5.73 crore from the units in period of one year and three months. Currently, an area of 745.83 hectares is under its jurisdiction. It has been divided into 1,673 plots, of which 44 are vacant and open for new industries. It provides roads, water, power and other facilities to the industrial units.
“Due to closure of such big number of industries, not only the government’s revenue has been affected, but it also led to loss of employment of hundreds of industries. Even the ancillary units are dependent on these industries suffers adversely,” Randheer lamented.
He added that the majority of industries in MIDC came under small-scale category and sudden changes like demonetisation and GST severely impacted them. “About 60,000 workers work in over thousand units here. It’s high time the government needs to take proactive steps to prevent other units from closing their shutters,” he said.
(With inputs from Subodh Wasnik)
- Neeri to help treat biomedical waste at GMCH, SSH Snehlata Shrivastav| tnn | May 18, 2018, 05:42 IST
Nagpur: The Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), and Super Specialty Hospital (SSH) will soon be setting up Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) and Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) to minimize pollution caused due to bio-medical waste.
The two projects will be implemented with help from the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (Neeri). The ETP plant will deal with all the blood and liquid waste that is generated from the eight operation theatres in GMCH and four in SSH.
“Neeri is an expert in ETP development, and hence GMCH is taking help from the institute in setting up the ETP at both hospitals. All the liquid waste generated from the hospitals will also be released in the drains only after treating it as per Neeri guidelines. Neeri would be spending Rs5 lakh on the project,” said Dr Abhimanyu Niswade, the GMCH dean.
State minister for medical education Ravindra Chavan had visited GMCH as well as Indira Government Medical College and Hospital (IGMCH) to assess the disposal of biomedical waste in the two college hospitals on the directives of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has been keenly following the issue. Hence, GMCH administration has taken up the job of pollution management very seriously.
There is a system for biomedical waste disposal, like body parts and tissues removed during surgery. But there is no system to deal with liquid waste, which generates a lot of microbial activity in sewage and causes smell all around. The ETP plant will help manage bacterial activity and prevent the foul odour.
- Cong factions want NMC to solve water problems tnn | May 18, 2018, 05:44 IST
Nagpur: Factional feud within the city Congress came to fore on Thursday when the two groups — one led by former mayor Vikas Thakre and the other by leader of opposition in NMC Tanaji Wanve — reached the NMC headquarters to raise civic complaints.
Thakre stormed the office of municipal commissioner Virendra Singh over poor water supply, while Wanve led the party workers to meet deputy mayor Deepraj Pardikar.
Shouting slogans, the party demanded NMC to sort out irregular and contaminated water supply issues, complete assessment of property tax, installation of LED lights, replacement of old and defective wires as well as poles with new ones, speedy completion of cement roads etc.
Thakre said, “There are a few companies and organizations who are eating up the public’s wealth thereby indulging in corrupt practices, which is why there should be an enquiry into their affairs. The citizens need to be saved from this menace.”
He said that NMC has allotted huge amounts of money to underserving companies for various projects. “OCW, which supplies water to the entire city, had promised uninterrupted supply and a water tanker-free city. None of these is being taken care of and instead, we witness water shortage and deployment of an increased number of tankers,” Thakre said.
“Kanak Resources, the company that lifts door-to-door garbage in the city also consumes loads of money from citizens’ pockets. They many times weigh sand instead of garbage,” he said.
“Cybertech Company too loots taxpayers in the name of working for property survey. Kanak and Cybertech have been wrongly allotted Rs 2,525 crore and Rs 55 crore respectively,” he said. Thakre appealed to the NMC to take charge of these jobs and bring everything under control.
The committee has submitted a memorandum of their demands to Singh and he assured to look into them. “The commissioner said that he is new in the office and has asked for a month to understand the scenario and put forth solutions. Therefore, we have decided to return after a month,” said Thakre.
The Wanve-led 15-corporator delegation met Pardikar and raised the water crisis across the city. No senior corporators were seen in his camp, while Thakre’s demonstration was joined by senior corporators Sandip Sahare, Manoj Sangole and Vishal Muttemwar.
The party said it will take to streets if its demands are not fulfilled soon.
- NMC terminates LED street lights contract tnn | May 19, 2018, 05:42 IST
Nagpur: The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) standing committee on Friday terminated work order issued to JK Solutions Inc for replacing sodium vapour street lights with LED street lights.
As per a compromise formula, neither the civic body nor the private company will go for legal battle and claim liquidated damages and compensation. Standing committee chairman Virendra Kukreja and his members approved the termination proposal submitted by the electric department. The civic body will have to pay Rs 10.15 crore to the company for its services.
As per NMC’s data, the private company was supposed to replace 26,712 street lights with LED street lights, strengthen infrastructure followed by operation and maintenance within 18 months from work order dated May 17, 2014. The company replaced only 565 street lights and executed some strengthening works. The NMC and the company blamed each other for project’s failure and claimed damages. NMC had engaged eight private companies in January 2016 to continue the work and it’s going on since then.
The standing committee also approved the proposal to construct compound wall at Bhandewadi dumping yard at the cost of Rs 44.22 lakh. Proposal to continue ‘Janashree’ insurance and scholarship to NMC students was returned to the education department for revision.
The committee has finalized nominal rate of Rs 300 and an advance of Rs 2,000 for renting dead body cold box. Former mayor Pravin Datke had sponsored two boxes from his corporator fund.
- After 10 years of matches, VCA applies for Jamtha OC Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | May 19, 2018, 03:47 IST
Nagpur: The Vidarbha Cricket Association’s (VCA) Jamtha cricket stadium has been in use for national and international matches, along with a club house for recreational or commercial purpose, for last 10 years. It is only now that the VCA has sought an occupancy certificate, which is mandatory before bringing into use any construction.
VCA submitted the application seeking occupancy certificate to Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority (NMRDA) on March 20. NMRDA is yet to take any decision on the application.
NMRDA sources told TOI the VCA application will be kept pending for some queries. “A letter seeking replies to queries, and some more documents, will be sent to VCA soon,” sources said.
TOI spoke to officials of NMRDA, and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), and two famous architects, all of whom said occupancy certificate is mandatory for bringing any structure into use, as per the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act.
Activists TH Naidu and Prashant Pawar, also president of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, have raised a question on lack of action by NMRDA and police department against VCA for years. “VCA itself has now proved that the stadium lacks occupancy certificate. We have been complaining about this for last two years. NMRDA initiated action against some residential structures, but kept mum whenever we raised issue of Jamtha stadium. Collector office and police department have even given permission to host matches for last 10 years,” they said.
VCA’s application says occupancy and completion certificate were sought by way of abundant precaution, to avoid further inconvenience during international matches. “In the recent past, and more particularly during international matches, the issue regarding occupancy and completion certificate crops up every time,” VCA said.
VCA, in the letter undersigned by CEO Farooq Dastur, also said they ‘did not require occupancy certificate’. “Construction of the stadium was undertaken and completed in 2008. Plans for construction were dully approved by the town planning department on July 7, 2007, and further sanctioned by the collector. All necessary clearances were also obtained. As per the collector’s non-agriculture (NA) order dated October 6, 2005, the premises was to be used for the purpose for which sanction was granted i.e. cricket stadium and club house. As per our understanding, and even in view of the communication dated October 6, 2005, addressed by the collector, there was no need of obtaining a completion certificate as the premises were to be used as per the sanctioned plans and for the purpose for which the sanction was granted. The only condition was that after completion of the construction, intimation of the same was to be given to the Gram Panchayat, which was duly given,” VCA said.
Earlier, the stadium had no fire prevention and safety systems. TOI had exposed the brazen violation in October 2013, following which VCA installed the system and also obtained permissions from Maharashtra Fire Services on October 10, 2015.
Quoting RTI information, TOI had on January 6, 2016, highlighted the fact that the stadium’s building plan was not sanctioned by collector, and just recommended for sanction by the state’s town planning department. Activists, including advocate Ankita Shah and Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, had time and again alleged that the stadium lacked occupancy certificate, environment clearance, and MPCB consent to operate.
DCP (crime branch) and Hingna police had directed VCA to ensure various types of clearances, including occupancy certificate, before hosting matches last year.
- NIT rider for letting Metro use Krazy Castle land Anjaya Anparthi| TNN | May 19, 2018, 03:04 IST
Nagpur: Though it is likely to get possession of entire Krazy Castle land on June 1, the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MahaMetro) will require change in land reservation from existing ‘park’ to ‘commercial’ for beginning construction of amusement park-cum-food plaza.
The Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) has asked the MahaMetro to consult the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) for user change, which is a lengthy process and is likely to take months.
The NIT in its letter dated May 4 also informed the MahaMetro that the cost of the land will increase to Rs85.92 crore if user changed to commercial. “The 6.47 acres land is reserved for a park in city’s development plan (DP). MahaMetro will have to pay Rs57.28 crore or adjust NIT’s share if land cost is calculated under park category. Ready reckoner value of commercial land is more than that of park,” the NIT said.
Besides NIT, the MahaMetro will also have to pay to Haldiram Foods International Ltd which holds the land’s lease till 2021.
The MahaMetro has planned to demolish Krazy Castle and construct Metro rail corridor, station, parking along with amusement park, food plaza and other types of commercial ventures. Commercial activities and creating third party interest on the property are not permissible in case reservation is for park.
For change in reservation, the NMC will have to give MahaMetro NOC that it will not require the land. The NMC general body will have to give its consent, followed by inviting suggestions and objections on its plan and later hold a hearing. Proposal will be submitted to the state government for change in reservation in the city’s DP. Also, the NMC will have to adjust the reservation of park at another place.
This also raises a question on NIT’s permission to Haldiram Foods for renting out some portion of Krazy Castle for marriage and other types of private functions.
It is also learnt that the NIT is upset as the MahaMetro refused to pay 2% ground rent annually for the land.
Also, the NIT has demanded the MahaMetro to pay premium of Rs1.93 crore that was supposed to come from Haldiram Foods till 2021. The MahaMetro has also reportedly rejected this demand.
- PWD illegally letting out Deshpande Hall parking slot Ashish Roy| TNN | May 19, 2018, 03:34 IST
Nagpur: Government agencies are expected to observe rules framed by other state departments. However, this is not the case with division No. 1 of the state’s public works department (PWD).
The officials are brazenly violating rules of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) by letting out parking slot of Vasantrao Deshpande Hall in Civil Lines for holding exhibitions.
When this fact was pointed out to Mahesh Morone, assistant commissioner of NMC’s Dharampeth zone, he said he would issue a notice to PWD officials.
As per NMC rules, a land or building can be used only for the purpose mentioned in the building plan and city development plan. If a building in a residential area is used for commercial purpose then it is illegal. In this case, the PWD is using the land meant for parking for commercial purpose.
This is not only violation of law but creates traffic congestion on the road in front of Deshpande Hall. Many times functions are held in the auditorium when an exhibition is going on in the parking lot. As a result, people don’t get space to park their vehicles inside the hall premises and park them on the road.
JH Bhanuse, executive engineer of division No. 1, who permits these exhibitions, sees nothing wrong in letting out the parking area. “The hall is not used for days together. We are only increasing government’s revenue. The money goes to the department’s account,” he said.
According to Bhanuse, traffic congestion is created when exhibitions are held in the adjoining South Central Zone Cultural Centre (SCZCC). “The centre does not have parking space for vehicles. Many times over 2,000 people visit the exhibitions in a day. They park their vehicles in Deshpande Hall and MLA Hostel and when there is no space left, the visitors park them on the road. We do not let out the entire parking area but only a part of it. People who visit the exhibitions park their vehicles in the vacant space,” he said.
PWD’s division No. 1 has been in the news mostly for wrong reasons. In the past, TOI has highlighted how crores were wasted on preparations for winter session of the state legislature. Earlier, 24 engineers were suspended for poor quality renovation work.
- 40 trucks, JCBs caught excavating sand illegally at Babhulgaon TNN | May 19, 2018, 03:02 IST
Yavatmal: In the wee hours of Thursday, the Sub Divisional Officer of Pusad and his team launched a surprise raid at two sand dunes in Babhulgaon tehsil of Yavatmal district, on the directions of the collector, and seized vehicles and sand worth crores.
Yavatmal collector Dr Rajesh Deshmukh has ordered raids on sand dunes across the district. He specifically deputed Pusad SDO Nitinkumar Hingole to conduct a raid in Babhulgaon tehsil, despite the areas coming under the jurisdiction of SDO Yavatmal Swapnil Tangade and the Babhulgaon tehsildar.
The Pusad team raided two sand dunes, namely, Watkhed — I and Watkhed — II and they were taken aback to notice a large quantity of sand was being smuggled out from the dunes illegally by the mafia. The team seized 42 vehicles, which includes 3 tracer boats, one JCB and 38 trucks, along with 100 cubic metres sand from Watkhed — I. The contactor of the sand dune here is one Mahendra Wamanrao Tarhekar of Amravati.
The cops have also seized six vehicles; 4 tracer boats, one poclain machine, and one tractor, and 150 cubic metres sand from Watkhed-II. The sand dune contractor is one Gajanan Kashinath Khode of Amravati.
According to Nitin Hingole, six trucks and one tractor managed to flee from the site, and the remaining vehicles have been seized by the Babhulgaon tehsildar.
SP M Rajkumar has confirmed the action by the SDO and said that Babhulgaon police have registered two separate criminal offences under various sections of IPC, Environment Protection Act and Maharashtra Land Revenue Code against the sand mafia after receiving a complaint from the tehsildar of Babhulgaon on Friday.
- A dump yard sans boundaries Manka Behl| tnn | Updated: May 18, 2018, 13:39 IST
Bhandewadi presents a small picture of the extensive problem in the country where almost 91% of the collected waste is dumped in open lands (as per some literatures). Over the years, the garbage started pouring out of the scientific landfill and slowly neighboured closer to those who generated it.
The biggest breach, that saw the beginning of all the problems at Bhandewadi, was unscientific dumping of city’s municipal solid waste. Recalls an official from the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), “Earlier, all the waste would be dumped inside the scientific landfill. The mess began when a massive fire destroyed the plastic and recycling unit and a part of the segregation unit of private agency M/s Hanjer Biotech Energies.”
The fire took place on February 14, 2012. After some months, the plant resumed its operation and started treating 200 out of the 900 metric tonne of waste that would be generated daily at that time. “In absence of a proper treatment, the trash started piling up,” adds the official.
When every inch of the “around 50-55 acre” land having the scientific landfill got covered in heaps of waste, the civic body conveniently shifted dumping to a nearby land. “Earlier, only construction and debris waste would be stored at this 50-acre land. NMC’s slaughterhouse was also operating at the same place,” says an official.
Today, the land is drowning in unsegregated garbage which is frequently on fire. It is not known whether NMC obtained authorization from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to dump garbage here. However, as per the environment ministry’s norms, open dumping is illegal. The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, clearly state that the municipal solid waste should only go to a scientific landfill.
Due to the under-performance of plant and over-burdening of landfill site, the waste started spreading out haphazardly. “This was the crux of the problem. A large part of the waste, which was not being treated, was dumped in the surrounding areas. With this, the buffer zone which should be mandatorily maintained around the site, started reducing in area. At present, there is zero buffer zone at some places while at others, houses are 50, 100 or some more meters away from the garbage heaps,” says Kaustav Chatterjee, founder of NGO Green Vigil.
According to residents, the problem of air pollution and contamination of groundwater increased as the garbage edged closer to their houses. “There have been incidences when burning polythene bags have flown into our houses,” they say.
The problems would have never happened if NMC had implemented segregation at source says Right to Information (RTI) activist Ankita Shah. Documents available with her reveal that MPCB had many-a-time pulled up NMC for unscientific waste dumping.
“The board officials visited the site and found that huge quantity of waste is dumped on open land in unscientific and unhygienic manner,” states a prosecution notice which was issued by the board to mayor and NMC commissioner on September 6, 2014.
On January 13, 2017, MPCB chairman Satish Gavai issued directions to municipal commissioner. “The National Green Tribunal has directed all authorities to take note of the fact that rules recognize only a landfill site and not dumping site,” the letter stated.
- Oppn puts NMC in troubled waters during GB meeting Proshun Chakraborty| TNN | Updated: May 20, 2018, 06:34 IST
NAGPUR: The opposition parties in Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) on Saturday cornered the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the civic administration’s failure for equal distribution of water.
Mayor Nanda Jichkar had convened the NMC’s special general body meeting to discuss problems of contaminated drinking water supply and water crisis. Corporators from all parties had vociferously raised the issue.
Congress corporators staged a protest against the NMC’s inaction against Orange City Water (OCW), the private agency entrusted with ensuring 24x7 water supply across the city, and water works department officials over contaminated, low pressure and no water supply in many areas.
Accusing the ruling party of having no control over the administration, senior Congress corporator Praful Gudadhe urged the mayor to find out the reason behind citizens’ using booster pumps to draw water instead of taking action against them. “The administration should take similar action against OCW for supplying contaminated and low pressure water,” he said.
Former mayor Pravin Datke opposed Gudadhe’s demand of not taking action against residents using booster pumps. The mayor also asked Gudadhe to sit down as he exceeded time assigned to him to voice his views in the House. This irked Gudadhe and other Congress corporators who then stormed the well of the House.
Mayor adjourned the meeting after Congress corporators turned aggressive and also staged a dharna in front of the well.
The water crisis could not be discussed during the meeting, as the mayor adjourned the meet immediately amid aggressive opposition protest.
The mayor, along with water works committee chairman Pintu Zalke, conducted review meetings at zone levels. She said most of the problems were sorted out at the zonal-level meetings itself. “There were only a handful corporators who raised the water issues in the House,” she explained.
Jichkar ordered the municipal commissioner to inquire into the delay in issuing work orders related to cleaning of wells. Congress corporators Darshana Dhawad, Kamlesh Choudhari, Harish Gwalbanshi claimed that the civic administration has failed to make alternative water arrangements by cleaning wells.
Dhawad accused the water works department of ignoring complaints of Congress corporators. She also cited examples of her request to clean three public wells in her ward since August 2017. “The department not only ignored my request but also cleaned wells when requested by a BJP corporator,” she claimed.
Tanaji Wanve, leader of opposition, slammed the mayor and ruling party leader Sandip Joshi, for adjourning the House on Saturday without discussing water shortage in the city. The Congress leader said that BJP was not interested in discussing the issue, which was of great importance to the city. He said that there were lot of problems in water distribution system of the city. He also ridiculed the mayor of not putting the action taken report of her zone-level review meetings.
- Encroachments near rly station gate removed TNN | Updated: May 20, 2018, 06:11 IST
The anti-encroachment squad first razed an illegal durgah constructed on footpath. A drive was also carried ou... Read More
Nagpur: The anti-encroachment squad of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) on Saturday cleared the periphery of Nagpur railway station east gate by seizing a truckload of material from encroachers.
According to officials from NMC’s enforcement department, motorists travelling on east Nagpur railway station road were facing severe hardships due to encroachments.
On Saturday, the anti-encroachment squad first razed an illegal durgah constructed on footpath. A drive was also carried out on road between Jaistamb Square and Shrimohini Complex to Kasturchand Park.
Later, the squad razed illegal structure of one Narayan Paunikar, who has constructed a portion of his house on public road at Binkar Colony in Tandapeth under Satranjipura zone. Paunikar along with few residents tried to prevent the demolition action.
The squad then removed hawkers from Mahal Chowk to Itwari Post Office Road to Dosar Bhavan Chowk to Ramjhula Square. Two truckload material along with four handcarts were seized.
Assistant municipal commissioner Ashok Patil, enforcement inspector Sanjay Kambleand other officials led the drive.
- NMC asks Empress Mall to remove all 44 stalls Ashish Roy| tnn | Updated: May 20, 2018, 06:23 IST
NAGPUR: Fire department of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has issued a notice to Empress Mall asking it to remove all the 44 stalls on its premises by Monday else police complaint would be lodged against the owners.
An official of Ganjipeth fire station said that these temporary structures were located on ground, first and third floor. “There are none on the second floor. These stalls sell toys, artificial jewellery, food items etc. There is no provision for them in the building plan,” he added.
According to the officer, the stalls blocked the passage in the mall. “In case of a fire, people should have enough space to rush towards the exit. These stalls will create bottlenecks in such a situation,” he said.
Chief fire officer Rajendra Uchake will conduct an inspection of the mall on Monday. “If stalls are not removed by then we will take further action,” said the official.
NMC had admitted before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court last month that it had found many illegalities and discrepancies in the construction of Empress Mall, including that of fire safety and unauthorized construction. NMC had conducted an inspection of entire structure on January 28. Accordingly, a notice was issued to KSL Industries under Section 6 of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006.
- ‘Mitigation measures only solution to avoid wildlife road kills’ Vijay Pinjarkar| TNN | Updated: May 20, 2018, 06:09 IST
WII scientist Dr Bilal Habib has been involved in field research on carnivores in India since 2001
Nagpur: With road development at its peak in the state, there is spurt in death of wild animals including tigers and leopards due to speeding vehicles. The threat of poaching is always there with electrocution and road kills turning to be the biggest. TOI spoke with Dehradun-based WildlifeInstitute of India (WII) scientist Dr Bilal Habib on the burning issue.
Habib is a recipient of the prestigious UNESCO MAB Young Scientist Award for developing monitoring program involving local communities. His work is cited in several contemporary conservation publications. Habib has been involved in field research on carnivores in India since 2001. His main interest lies in understanding conservation challenges faced by large carnivores in changing scenario.
Excerpts from an interview...
Q. Of late, there is spurt in wild animal kills on roads?
A. There is no authentic and organized data available to actually confirm whether there is an increase or decrease in road kills. However, in the recent past, Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) developed apps to involve citizens for recording road kills. The initial data from these initiatives is alarming. According to WCT, it recorded 800 animal kills while the RoadWatch website of WTI shows 873 road kills (343 reptiles, 203 mammals, 113 birds, 126 amphibians, & 88 unidentified) since the app was launched earlier this year. It is possible that the extent of road kills was similar, greater or lesser in the past. It is only due to spatial coverage of data collection through these apps and due to the advent of social media that more and more incidents of road kills are coming to the fore. I agree the situation is indeed grave and alarming.
Q. Do you have figures to quantify how many animals died in road and railway kills?
A. There is no single unified database available for this. All records lie scattered in forest range offices across the country. Further, the data collected through apps get divided since these are two different ones launched by separate NGOs. Therefore, anyone seeking to compile a nationwide inventory of roadkill data would have to consolidate data from different sources. It would be good if a unified platform for data collection is launched in which citizen scientists and forest departments could feed data. Digitizing nationwide range-level roadkill/train mortality data collected over the years by the state forest departments would also help decipher trends in these incidents over the years. I feel when conservation is a common goal, stakeholders cannot afford diluted, deflected and competing efforts.
Q. WII had done studies on mitigation measures? How has it helped?
A. WII has proposed mitigation measures to address road-induced impacts on wildlife in the country. Road ecology as a subject in India is emerging as a challenging discipline. Till date, WII has proposed mitigation measures on NH-7 & NH-6 in Central India. The mitigation measures on NH7 (Pench-Maharashtra section) are under construction and may be ready in a year or so. We believe that these measures are best in the world. We are of the opinion that all the road upgradation projects or new proposals should involve services of road ecologists at DPR stage so that all these issues are sorted out before planning/upgradation of roads.
Q. But mitigation was possible as NGOs knocked court doors?
A. Yes, that is true but now that wildlife mitigation is in place the issue is resolved.
Q. With wildlife numbers in Central Indian landscape very high, how can we save the situation?
A. Central India today is home to about 688 tigers in 19 tiger reserves according to All India Tiger Monitoring Report 2015. With increasing protection, wildlife in these PAs is increasing in numbers and coming out of PAs, thus increasing probability of wild animals coming across human infrastructure such as roads. The connectivity between the reserves is challenged because of linear projects like roads, railway and power lines, urban sprawl and mining. In such a fragmented landscape, it is imminent that tigers, leopards and other wildlife would encounter roads more often as they are known to traverse large distances once they disperse to establish territories. It is the mortality of young, fit, dispersing individuals that takes a toll on a population. Wildlife-vehicle encounters are only bound to increase. To maintain integrity of Central Indian Landscape (CIL), and avoid human and wildlife mortalities and other losses, it is vital to have mitigation measures at specific places for wildlife movement across the landscape.
Q. Tadoba, Bor, Melghat, Nagzira-Navegaon are being cut off from all sides due to road widening? Any immediate solutions?
A. No. A lot of people propose temporary solutions such as rumble strips, speed breakers etc. They reduce the speed of the vehicle thereby increasing time spent by the vehicle on the road and creating a barrier effect for the animals. All such areas where connectivity is expected to get compromised must be prioritized for mitigation measures. The only short-term measure is to reduce traffic volume during peak hour of animal activity.
Q. PWD, NHAI say roads are widened as per right of way?
A. Land is a much coveted resource for development and conservation, and diversion of forest land for a right-of-way (ROW) is a contentious issue. The ROW is primarily meant to be used by the infrastructure agency for upkeep and maintenance. ROW should be for ecological recognition, which is not being done. Although it may be argued that no more forest land should be diverted for road-building, a sufficient ROW is vital for roads expected to be crossed by animals. This gives the animals an adequate view of the on-road traffic and enables careful decision-making. Therefore, considering these implications for behaviour of animals attempting to cross the roads, provisions for adequate road verges should be ensured, given other mitigation measures and crossing structures are in place.
Q. How can drivers avoid accidents with wildlife? What if a crash is inevitable?
A. When peak traffic hours overlap with peak activity times of animals, the chances of animal mortality increases manifold. During these hours, speed limits on road stretches prone to roadkill should be strictly imposed and monitored. Such speed reduction would help increase the reaction time of a driver who can then apply brakes as and when required. However, such measures are futile in high traffic segments where such speed restrictions would only increase the barrier effect. In such areas, the number of vehicles also needs to be restricted.
Q. Who is responsible for the mess? Forest departments or user agencies?
A. Putting the blame on the department or the user agency seems to be out of context. As a society, everybody is at fault. All metropolises and developing towns have good education and job opportunities within their reach, leading to more purchasing power. According to a recent study by the Cornell University and University of Texas in 3 metro cities of India, 53% of households owned/leased both 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers (respondents with an annual average household income of over Rs10 lakh). The same study also predicted that the per capita vehicle ownership in these metro cities would almost triple in the next 15 years. Road and infrastructure development are a result of demand for development, and driven by socio-economic imperatives. However, ensuring that critical corridors and habitats are protected from destruction and fragmentation is in our hands, and we need to make certain that road upgradation and development includes stakeholders from the conservation community for the appropriate inclusion of biodiversity concerns into these plans. This would require a healthy collaboration between the Central government ministries, user agencies, forest departments, conservation scientists, NGOs and the media, instead of playing the blame game. For user agency, investment for safeguarding corridors should be like safeguarding own future.
Q. With population and vehicle numbers going up, what needs to be done?
A. For long-term conservation in the CIL, it is imperative that vital corridors remain intact. Only long-term solution to this problem is permanent mitigation measures. As of now, there is no other technology suitable for Indian conditions that could help avoid animal-vehicle collisions.
Q. Should road agencies have rescue units for animals?
A. That is a good suggestion. The user agency in collaboration with the forest department can think of road patrols and should have joint rescue centres in areas which are critical corridor areas prone to road kills.
Q. Roads are being widened in areas where WII itself has authenticated corridors?
A: We are of the opinion that if the existing roads are kept as such, it is more detrimental and damaging to wildlife. Road upgradation should be considered as an opportunity to mitigate or reverse the existing problem. The corridors identified by WII in Eastern Vidarbha Landscape (EVL) are critical for long-term conservation. Proper mitigation measures should be put in place in areas identified as corridors.
- Court had passed strictures against authorities. Yet, no action taken
As early as 2014, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) about leachate pollution at the city’s municipal solid waste dumping site at Bhandewadi.
“The leachate collection system is not operating properly due to which the toxic leachate is finding its way into environment,” the board stated in an affidavit submitted to the Pune bench of NGT. The board had also observed that the waste was dumped all over the area without processing.
The green court was hearing a petition filed by five residential societies which expressed grievances regarding improper and unscientific operations at the dumping site. “It is resulting in serious air and water pollution, posing a serious health hazard to a large population,” the petition stated.
In the petition, it was also highlighted that a buffer zone having a desirable limit of minimum 500 meters was not maintained and this led to significant residential growth in surrounding areas. However, as per an affidavit which was then submitted by the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT), there was no buffer (no-development) zone shown in the revised Development Plan of the city.
Following this, creating a buffer no-development zone under the scientific assistance of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) was also directed by the court. “It is averred that development of such a buffer zone is likely to get some opposition from the local residents, as their development rights will be affected,” the court’s order had stated.
Against the court’s directives, the civic body failed in maintaining the buffer zone. “The dumping area kept expanding and the garbage went closer to human habitation,” said the residents of Deshpande layout. Members of the society, under the banner of Deshpande Jansamsaya Niwaran Samiti, were one of the applicants.
In its affidavit, NIT had stated that it did not regularize or sanction any layout under the scheme of regularization within 500m buffer zone from the compost depot. “We carried out survey of unauthorized constructions, which are not regularized under the Maharashtra Gunthewari Developments (Regularization, Up-gradation and Control) Act, 2001. The unauthorized layouts have come up in Bhandewadi and Wathoda within 500m radius of existing compost depot before 2001,” it stated.
Asim Sarode, who was the counsel in this case, said that it was NMC’s duty to prevent such encroachments. “Being a custodian, the civic body should have protected the buffer zone,” he said.
Sarode added that the unscientific dumping of garbage has “permanently” polluted the groundwater of the area. “It is the duty of the state government to rehabilitate the affected people,” he said.
Residents of Deshpande layout said that the civic agencies are in contempt of the court’s order. “The situation at Bhandewadi is worsening day-by-day. Under such circumstances, we will knock the doors of court again,” they added.
As per Sarode, an execution petition can be filed in NGT for the non-execution of the earlier order. “Failure in complying with the tribunal's order is punishable with imprisonment that can extend to three years or a fine up to ten crore rupees or both,” he said.
- Water ATM soon at Bhandewadi
Nagpur: Safe drinking water, which has been a far-off dream for thousands of people living around the Bhandewadi dumping yard, might come true soon.
Responding favourably to their pleas, guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has said that a potable water ATM will be set-up in the area. Speaking to TOI, Bawankule said that the plant would come-up at Bidgaon, which is barely a kilometer away from dumping site of city’s municipal solid waste.
Bawankule added that he plans to use funds procured from corporate social responsibility of some private companies. “I have approached some and the final order should get passed in the coming ten days,” he said.
According to the minister, the plant will cost around Rs 12 lakh and will be based on ultra-filtration technology. Similar to Reverse Osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration is a process which separates suspended solids, solutes and bacteria and viruses to produce water with high purity.
Once the plant is set-up, Bawankule plans to hand it over to women self-help groups. “Drinking water will be sold at a nominal price of Rs 5 for 20 litres. We want to ensure that clean drinking water reaches to every stratum,” the minister added.
In the last one year, Bawankule has dedicated such water filter ATMS at many villages in the region. TOI had earlier reported how against the packaged drinking water, these ATMs are providing safe and low-cost drinking water to many rurals.
Bidgaon is one of the areas which is worst affected due to contamination of groundwater. Since years, residents have been suffering from various health problems relating to stomach, kidney, skin and other diseases like jaundice and typhoid.
Recently, TOI had collected water samples from few borewells in the area and got them tested in a private laboratory. Results showed that some parameters were higher than permissible limits and the water was unsafe for drinking.
On the minister’s assurance, residents said that they have been hearing such promises since last 3-4 years. “Since two years we are being told that a water ATM will come up in our area but nothing happened. Few years back, we demanded a drinking water pipeline but no steps were taken. Ministers only visit our area when elections are near,” they said.
Apart from water contamination, the health of these residents is also at stake due to toxic air. TOI has been repeatedly reporting how the massive air pollution caused due to burning of all kinds of waste. “The minister’s priority should also be to tackle this problem. We deserve to breathe clean air,” they said.
Bawankule was hopeful that the waste-to-energy plant will solve waste management problems at Bhandewadi. The real problem, however, is the existing over 100 crore kilograms of solid waste which is frequently on fire. “We are exploring ways to get rid of it,” said Bawankule.