We live in an increasingly noisy environment. Motorized vehicles on the road, many with loud noisy reverse signals, loud horns and poorly maintained bodies so that as they rumble along, they give off noisy vibrations, the pile drivers digging away into the earth as buildings are built, jackhammers in action as buildings come down. The whine of cutters as granite and marble sheets are cut…and add to that the music blared from parks (supposed to be for the walkers’ benefit, the loud noise from Bollywood and Tollywood ‘item numbers’ booming out from the sound systems in cars... the sources seem endless.
The most obvious impact of noise is raised voices. We have become loud talkers - just to overcome this background noise. It stresses people out- continuous exposure to noise can cause behavioural and emotional stress. Noise leads to increased heart-beat, constriction of blood vessels. Most important, it can lead to hearing loss, sometimes at particular frequencies which unfortunately correspond to our normal conversational sound levels.
Perhaps to solve this, we should move under water, suggested someone. After all, the sound of waves on the beach is always soothing and perhaps if you are able to live inside water, you can escape from all this noise. Surely all that you would have to listen to would be waves rolling and clicks of marine mammals? And even that would probably be muffled.
News Digest March 2016
Conservation of Coast Gets Least Priority at All Levels: “The outcome of implementing CRZ notification has been of no use to ecology or coastal communities spread across 73 districts in nine states,” reveals New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environment Justice (EJ) Programme in its first such study on functioning of the institution for coastal regulation in the country. “Conservation is a low priority at all levels,” said Meenakshi Kapoor of CPR, who was in the city to submit the study’s findings at a seminar on challenges of coastal governance in Karnataka organised in College of Fisheries. She said on the Supreme Court’s intervention, Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) was formed to oversee implementation of CRZ at state and national levels in 1999.
How Kochi Is Strangling the Life Out of Its Mangrove Forests: Cross the Kalamukku Junction of the Vypeen road in Kochi and you are in the Cochin Port Trust area. That’s when you see the mangrove forests on either side of the road. Water-logged areas with several patches of land in between abound in these forests. Look closely and you can spot hundreds of withered trees completely shorn of all branches with not even a leaf on them. For those not familiar with mangroves, one is not sure whether this is how mangroves are supposed to look... are dry patches and atrophied trees part of such a marshy landscape?
Summer has set in early this year as may be seen by the rapidly rising temperatures even though March is just setting in. Water becomes an important concern and hence it was rather apt that the First Dr Pitchai endowment lecture delivered by Prof Rafig Azzam of RWTH Aachen University, Chair for Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, Lochnerstr, Aachen, Germany, was titled “Steering Mechanisms for Sustainable Land Use and Urban Water Management” on 25th February at the IIT, Madras.
Prof Azzam started by talking about the issue of increasing urbanization worldwide (more than half of the people living in urban areas) and the increasing scarcity of water: physical water scarcity when water itself was not available; and economic water scarcity, when water was apparently available in plenty but not usable for drinking or other purposes because it was polluted and therefore had high cost in treatment. It was interesting to note that usage of water depends often on the income of the country. In high income countries, the usage was low in agriculture and high in industry and vice versa; this resulted in variation in water withdrawals in the different continents. He gave a clear picture of the adverse impacts urban systems had on water - from water having to be brought in from outside, issues of poor infrastructure such as leaky mains that resulted in a loss of precious water, septic tank effluents as well as leaky sewers that contaminated groundwater, reduction in area of infiltration and so on - reminiscent of Prof Pitchai’s lectures given decades ago on water problems of Chennai.
Violations in Coastal Regulation Zone alleged Though there were several issues raised by fishermen at the grievance day meeting convened here on Friday, issues concerning coastal regulation zone (CRZ) violations put forth by environmentalist M. Krishnamurthy hogged the attention. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials had ignored violations of CRZ norms as municipal waste and untreated sewage were being let into the sea through Buckle Canal in the Threspuram coast, he alleged. To aggravate the situation, marine water was exposed to industrial effluents, which were also let into the sea. But the district administration had not taken any action to prevent the violations, Mr. Krishnamurthy said.
News Digest: February 2016
Centre gives fresh green clearance to Rs 11,370 crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. NEW DELHI: The Centre today issued a fresh coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance to the ambitious 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project worth Rs 11,370 crore.
The decision follows a National Green Tribunal (NGT)'s October order that had set aside the Environment Ministry's prior coastal clearance of 2013 to the project and asked it look into the proposal afresh.
Supreme Court says won’t stand in the way of projects of national importance: NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said that it would not be intimidated by names of big investors such as Adanis, and would not stand in the way of national projects such as the Vizhingam port, which is being built on a BOT basis by the group, only for a few hundred fishermen. The top court also echoed a similar pro-development line on the Adanirun Hazira port on the western coast, permitting the port to continue operations while insisting that no further constructions be carried out while it dealt with an NGT order which had quashed its environment clearance following objections from local fishermen.
It is now a month since the floods hit Chennai and northern Tamil Nadu. People are now back at work but the impacts, especially on infrastructure are still evident. The bridge across the river at Saidapet still has sandbags piled in two places while in a third place a big jaali does the work of a railing. So what are the things that we have learnt?
News Digest: January 2016
Why does it take a disaster for people to wake up to problems of poor planning? Ten years ago it was Mumbai being battered by rain. A year ago, it was Vizag battered by Hud Hud. Now it is the turn of Chennai to be battered. We begin December with yet another rain holiday declared and the news that Chennai has just missed bettering a century old record for rain in November. Rain damages were pegged at over Rs 8000 crore about a fortnight ago for Tamil Nadu; with the continuing rain, the cost will only rise. And this just adds to the climate-related disasters that the UNISDR has been talking about: a new report released last week by them shows that over the last twenty years, 90 per cent of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.
When the sun came out a few days ago after almost two weeks of rain, many stretches of the road looked in Chennai and suburbs looked as if a herd of elephants had trampled across. The damage which was pegged at over Rs 8000 crore is going to be much higher if rains continue to batter us as the weathermen have predicted. The loss is not just in terms of goods (tons of vegetables rotted away while provisions in many stores went underwater) and homes but also in terms of lost man-days at work (waterlogged industrial estates and access roads to working places) and lost working days for schools and colleges; and if you ask the students, the uncertainty about examinations is probably not quantifiable. But every report that has come out has been quite scathing: the floods are man-made. It is encroachment into wetlands, building in low lying areas, watersheds and so on that has resulted in this particular disaster.
Do we blame the people or the authorities for this mess?
Tamil Nadu deluge climate change trailer, matches global warming signs Heavy rains and deadly flooding in south India, a region that saw a killer heat wave this summer, are weather patterns that appear to fit the scenarios of climate change in India, IMD chief Laxman Singh Rathore has said. “They (emerging weather patterns) fit the larger picture of climate change predicted by Indian scientists as well as global reports,” Rathore told HT. Episodes of excessive rainfall are increasing while the number of rainy days is decreasing, Rathore, director-general of the India Meteorological Department, said. This year, the Met had predicted a scanty summer monsoon (14% deficient) but a heavier-than-normal October December winter monsoon in the south. One of the reasons for Chennai’s heavy rains is the ongoing El Nino weather pattern, which causes dry summers but wetter winters.
78 lighthouses to be developed as tourism hubs via PPP mode: The Ministry of Shipping on Thursday announced that the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships has drawn up a plan to develop 78 of the country’s 189 lighthouses as tourist-friendly destinations via the PPP model. While there is investor interest in the project, Mr. Gadkari said that there were some concerns. “There have been some concerns expressed by investors, especially with respect to Coastal Regulation Zone clearance, security clearance, support from Ministry of Shipping in the form of subsidy, etc,” he said. An Inter-Ministerial Group comprising representatives of the Ministries of Shipping, Tourism, and Environment, and also of the participating States will be set up to address these concerns and roadblocks. The development of these lighthouses as tourist attractions will involve the construction of hotels and resorts, thematic restaurants, viewing galleries, walk-in museums and other facilities.