Mining on coastal sand dunes poses environmental hazard
The CRZ is once again in the limelight. A search with “CRZ” as the keyword brings forth a spate of news reports in the last few weeks. Of course CRZ violations – especially in Goa and Kerala are a-plenty. But what is of concern is that regulations are set to be amended so that not just Mumbai, but other coastal cities too will be allowed to build high-rises within the 500m of the high tide line. The CRZ has been a contentious confusing notification. With more amendments in the offing, it is worth reading the detailed report prepared by Manju Menon et al. on the institution that is supposed to implement the notification.
"Governance" as is well known, refers to the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Good governance requires good institutions. The institutional set-up for regulating the coast is the coastal zone management authority. One of the characteristics of good governance is transparency: Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media (UNESCAP).
Vizhinjam port: draft of pact published
As a prelude to the all-party meeting convened on June 3, the government on Tuesday published the draft concession agreement to be inked with the port operator and other documents related to the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multi-Purpose project.
Achieving Universal Energy Access in India: Challenges and the Way Forward. P.C. Maithani and Deepak Gupta. Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd. 2015
The month of May has been a blaze of heat everywhere in India with the heat wave claiming thousands of lives and distorting roads and sending to critical heights levels of toxins in the air in cities like Delhi. Newspapers said it was the coolest May in a decade for Chennai thanks to a few days of cool weather in between the ‘dog days’ which actually made the subsequent days feel hotter. Everywhere one can hear the whirring of fans and air conditioners as people try to stay indoors to beat the heat. Our lives have become largely controlled by the availability of power. Whether it is the fridge in the kitchen, the TV or the ubiquitous cellphone, all require electrical inputs at some time or another. While LPG is still used as fuel for some parts of cooking, we have induction stoves, rice cookers and a whole lot of other appliances from coffee makers to atta mixers in the kitchen that require electricity. When the power goes off, the inverter or a gen-set comes on as we cannot think of even a short while without power and so even the scheduled load shedding is somehow ‘managed’; we panic if our cellphones run out of charge. In short, our lifestyles have become energy intensive.
According to a recent Planning Commission document, some 600 million Indians do not have access to electricity. In their book, “Achieving Universal Energy Access in India”, authors P.C. Maithani and Deepak Gupta explain in the first chapter that while there is no internationally adopted definition of energy access as yet, it could broadly be defined as the physical availability of modern energy carriers and improved end-use devices at the household level at affordable prices.
Shaken Just five days ago, a massive earthquake in Nepal with a magnitude of 7.8 resulted in massive destruction of iconic heritage sites in the country’s capital apart from a growing death toll which may cross 10,000 due to people caught in the rubble as well as in avalanches and landslides including in Mount Everest and nearby areas. While an earthquake of this magnitude can be a disaster anywhere, it showed up the poor state of preparedness for such an event in a country that is sitting one of the biggest geological collision zones in the planet for geological stress builds up along the Himalayas and releases itself periodically in earthquakes. The intensity was so high that it was felt in many places in north India, especially in Bihar where many building were reportedly brought down. Relief has poured into the Nepal, starting with India’s Operation Maitri, from many countries. Earthquakes are not random events, nor can they be forecast like a cyclone, for instance. They are continuously happening as can be seen from the earthquake maps and data. Today, there is plenty of understanding about which are the areas that are earthquake prone. It is clear that preparedness and being pro-active is the only way with respect to seismic events. Time and again, it has been emphasised that it is not an earthquake per se that kills but poorly constructed buildings in earthquake prone areas that are shaken to the point of collapse trapping people within then.
Ten years after the “Build Back Better” mantra, a short study was carried out in the tsunami affected villages of Tamil Nadu which had seen a frenzy of construction in the last decade. The houses along the coast were largely kutcha, according to the census information of 2001. So it was not surprising that the houses of fishermen living in fishing hamlets located mostly within 500 m of the shore line were damaged/destroyed by the tsunami, on an unprecedented scale. The damages were assessed at over 53,000 with around 45,000 of them fully damaged and the remaining partially damaged. Considering that the coast receives repeat visitations of hazards, especially cyclones, it was decided that a multi-hazard-resilient house would be provided for those who lost their homes in the tsunami. It resulted in cost escalation but that did not matter too much as plenty of funds were available. In fact, because of the huge humanitarian inflow of funds, the government decided to use some of the funds made available through a World Bank loan package to buy land and let the NGOs do the construction, though adhering to certain basic specifications. For those areas where there were no NGO takers / they backed out for whatever reason, the government stepped in and built houses. Then the government decided to go beyond providing houses to those affected by the tsunami by deciding on replacing houses that it had constructed earlier (but were now dilapidated) and others who lived in vulnerable houses (read kutcha houses) in vulnerable areas (e.g. riverbanks). Thus in reality, there are multiple phases of construction, though for an outsider (and even for many beneficiaries), they are all part of tsunami reconstruction.
Protection of Coastal Areas from Rising Sea Level
Recently released Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that global mean sea level has risen by 190 mm over the period 1901-2010.
The first time many of us heard of Disaster Risk Reduction was probably in 2005, a month after the tsunami struck. The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held at Kobe, Japan, adopted the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015.
This was the time when post-tsunami reconstruction of the affected areas had begun – people were being moved into temporary shelters and discussions about rebuilding houses was going on full swing. The tsunami was an unexpected, new threat from the sea, an addition to the cyclones and storm surges. How did one ensure people’s safety by the sea?
The announcement of HFA’s three strategic goals at this time was thus most appropriate: The integration of disaster risk reduction into sustainable development policies and planning; Development and strengthening of institutions, mechanisms and capacities to build resilience to hazards and the systematic incorporation of risk reduction approaches into the implementation of emergency preparedness, response and recovery programmes. Ah, here were directions that could be followed. Thus, Slowly, wherever possible, these ideas were integrated into the rebuilding process. For example, multi-hazard resilient houses were built and Early Warning Systems were put in place. There were a number of sessions conducted by NGOs with communities where PRAs helped the locals (and the outsiders) understand threats, risks and methods to build a resilient society.
In 2008, BEDROC carried out a study to look at the state of disaster resilience among tsunami affected communities using a framework created by John Twigg with reference to the HFA’s five thematic areas for disaster resilience. One of the most obvious findings was that there was a heightened awareness of disasters and the need for disaster preparedness. But it still continued to be top down rather than a bottom up approach in terms of building disaster resilience.