Friday, February 20, 2015

Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand Manorama Dobriyal Sharma died

Manorama Dobriyal Sharma died at a private hospital in Gurgaon, Haryana on 17 February 2015 due to multiple organ failure. She was 60. She was the Member of Parliament (MP) in Rajya Sabha from Uttarakhand and Congress Party leader.

The Chief Minister of Uttrakhand, Harish Rawat declared three-day state mourning following her death. Her last rites were performed at Lakhibagh in Dehradun.

She was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha in November 2014 on Congress Party ticket, thus becoming the first woman member of the Upper House from Uttrakhand.

She was the President of women unit of Congress Party in Uttarakhand and was also the mayor of Dehradun. During her mayorship, she had successfully organized International Council of Mayors which shows her organizational capability besides her participation in mass movements.

Kedarnath shrine to reopen on April 24 in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand: The sacred portals of Kedarnath shrine will be reopened on April 24, 2015 this year. The gates of the shrine will be thrown open to devotees after their wintertime closure at 8.30 AM on April 24, Kedarnath-Badrinath temple committee Chief Executive Officer B D Singh said.

The auspicious date and timing for the reopening ceremony was decided on Tuesday at Omkareshwar temple Ukhimath in Rudraprayag district where the lord is worshipped during his winter sojourn.

The famed Himalayan shrine, one of the "char dhams" located in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand is closed annually for the winters when it remains snowbound.

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KMVN to make Kailash yatra hassle-free

Nainital: Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam officials held a meeting to plan the course of action for Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra. The Nigam officials also discussed the ideas and proposals to increase the revenue and provide good service to tourists visiting the region. Ministry of external affairs has announced the date for registration for pilgrims.

"The plans and ideas were discussed for upcoming Kailash-Mansarovar yatra and how to provide better facilities to pilgrims and other tourists visiting the Kumaon region. Key proposals included providing a hassle-free route for the pilgrims," said D Garbyal, managing director of KMVN.

In order to maintain safe and congestion-free route, the Nigam has planned a layout to reduce the number of motor vehicles on the route to Kailash-Mansarovar via Uttarakhand.

The pilgrimage will commence on June 8 and end in September "Though the central government and other agencies are also involved but we will also provide quality accommodations and other services pilgrims travelling via Uttarakhand," added the MD.

KMVN has its guest houses and other properties spanning in all the six districts of Kumaon division.

On the other hand the MEA announced a dedicated interactive website for the purpose for firstever time - The website will have all the details details like fare prices and other vital information for the pilgrimage.

U’khand to set up cell for tracing missing kids

 Dehradun: After 188 children were found after the month-long 'Operation Smile', Uttarakhand police plan to set up a "lost and found cell" dedicated to tracing missing children. Director general of police (DGP) BS Sidhu directed senior police officers to look into the possibility of creating such a cell.

The cell would be dedicated to tracing missing kids in the state and even conduct operations in other states if the need arises. Another key aim of the move is to have a centralized record of the missing children in the Himalayan state.

"When Operation Smile started on January 1, the number of missing children in the state was 774. However, the records had not been updated for many years," the DGP said. He pointed out that 188 children were found in one month. He said after the records were updated, the total number of missing minors in Uttarakhand was at 297.

Police officers say they are optimistic of finding more missing children in March. "Our teams will be visiting private and government shelter homes to find out the status of minors lodged there. Many missing children may be staying in these shelter homes," Sidhu added.

The police department, as a part of this project, also plans to crack down on gangs that push children into begging and child labour. An official, on grounds of anonymity, said the cell can play a key role in coordinating with the administration in all 13 districts of the state.

Five panchayats set to generate own electricity

Dehradun: Neetu Juyal, pradhan of Purkul village in Dehradun, waits eagerly for April - that is when she and fellow-villagers in Purkul will start groundwork for setting up a mini hydro-power plant of their own in the village.

The panchayat, along with four others, was picked for an ambitious project of the Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (UREDA). Micro-mini hydro power plants will be set up in these villages.

The move is in sync with the state's policy to empower and include village-level panchayats to develop hydro-power projects. The panchayats will work in consultation, if needed, with private firms, on a profit-sharing basis.

Panchayats will also have the option of appointing a Special Purpose Vehicle (private firm) to construct, operate and maintain the hydro-power plant. The five projects are in Baram, Jimmigad plant on the borders of Kweri Gimia and Saipolo, Virthi plant in Bhithing and Girigaon, Nada and Purkul.

Of the five projects, four are mini hydropower plants (above 100kw but less than 2MW), whereas, one of them (Nada, less than 50kw) is a micro hydro-power plant.

Juyal said: "We will get all the technical education and funds to set up the small hydropower plant from the government. The move will help generate power within the village, and we will have control over it."

After they are completed, the five projects will together generate a total of 4,400 KW electricity.

The projects would be constructed with 90% funds from the Centre and 10% cost borne by panchayats; or, the Centre will give Rs1.25lakh/KW or 90% of project cost, whichever is less.

Explaining the importance of the project, Umakant Pawar, secretary, power, said: "These projects are not only aiming at generating electricity but also livelihoods for the villagers. They will be trained by IIT experts and technicians."

A concept note from UREDA said electricity generated by all the micro, mini and small projects will go directly into the grid.

"We have decided that Rs 4/unit will be credited in panchayats' account for supplying power. They are free to use the funds for development of their villages or as per their requirement," Pawar said.

Chief project officer of UREDA AK Tyagi said, "We are targeting to fulfil 3,000 MW electricity generation potential of Uttarkhand through micro, mini and small projects. The state has also earmarked 165 spots in different villages of Uttarakhand for construction of hydro-power projects to bring an end to the woes of villagers for the next 35 years."


Maintain separate swine flu wards: Uttarakhand CM

 Dehradun: Uttarkhand chief minister Harish Rawat on Friday directed officials to ensure necessary precautions are taken against H1N1 influenza.

Rawat also asked all district magistrates (DM) in the state to ensure that hospitals in every district have a separate ward for lodging swine flu patients. In case of swine flu in any district, the patients should be treated on priority, he directed.

Out of a total of 52 suspected cases in the state, 12 have tested positive. The state government sounded an alert in all the districts with immediate effect on Friday.

Principal secretary (medical health) Om Prakash said out of 52 samples of suspected patients of swine flu sent to Delhi-based National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for clinical test over a week ago, 12 were confirmed as positive while the report of 40 other samples is still awaited. Two patients of 12 have succumbed to the disease.

Referring to the death of the Dehradun schoolgirl on Thursday, director-general (DG) Joshi made it clear the victim could have died of died of swine flu but her test report is still awaited. "Unless we receive her test report we cannot jump to any conclusion," said a senior medical officer at Doon Hospital.

Referring to the complaints of shortage of medicines, Rawat instructed the officials concerned to ensure adequate supply of these medicines be made available in all state, district and block-level government hospitals.

The CM also sought reports from all DMs on the arrangements made in their areas to combat swine flu.

Udham Singh Nagar DM said two positive cases of swine flu have been reported from the district, while other DMs said there had enough medicines and are prepared to deal with the outbreak of the disease on a largerscale.

The DG, health, has been asked to maintain coordination between private hospitals and ensure that there is sufficient stock of medicines available at all times.

Chief secretary N Ravi Shankar told TOI that all DMs and other senior district and medical authorities have been instructed to make sure that doctors on duty take extra care of the patients admitted in different CHCs, PHCs and other government-owned hospitals.

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SC kept in dark about threat from six Uttarakhand dams

The Supreme Court asked the Union environment ministry to review six specific hydroelectric projects on the upper Ganga basin in Uttarakhand. On Wednesday, the ministry informed the apex court that its expert committee had checked and found the six had almost all the requisite and legitimate clearances. But, the ministry did not tell the court the experts, in the report to the ministry, had also warned these dams could have a huge impact on the people, ecology and safety of the region, and should not be permitted at all on the basis of old clearances.

They warned that even the Badrinath shrine could be at threat, added by the lack of safeguards in one of the six projects.

The cherry-picked reading of the committee report to the Supreme Court comes out giving the impression the experts gave a clean chit to the six dams in question and the court can give the go-ahead. The truth is just the opposite. The experts, in reality, have warned the projects received their clearances long before the Uttarakhand tragedy of 2013, in which thousands were killed.

The experts say in the report that the projects were not assessed comprehensively when the clearances were given. They warn the projects need comprehensive assessment based on the revised understanding after the Uttarakhand disaster and the altered physical and material condition of the sites. They concluded the six projects should not go through in their current shape.

Business Standard reviewed the report by the four experts of the government. The committee was set up under Vinod Tare of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; V B Mathur of the Wildlife Institute of India; Brijesh Sikka, scientist in the environment ministry, and Dalel Singh, a hydrologist from Dharamsala. The committee was convened by another scientist of the environment ministry, B B Barman. The government did not file the complete report before the Supreme Court but extracted select bits and reported these as part of its affidavit in the previous hearing.

The expert panel report concludes, "Considering the existing available reports on the subject and after interaction with the developers as well as interveners as per the order of the MoEF, committee is of the view that the six projects may not be taken up as they have potential of causing significant impacts on the biodiversity, riverine system, wildlife and other fragile ecosystems in the areas where these projects are located due to altered hydrological parameters. As such, the entire process of according clearances to these processes warrants review."

These six projects are, the 171 Mw Lata Tapovan project of NTPC, the 195-Mw Kotlibel - IA of NHPC, the 108-Mw Jhelum Tamak of THDC, the 300-Mw of Alaknanda of GMR, the 4-Mw Khirao Ganga and the 24.3-Mw of Bhyundar Ganga of Super Hydro Electric Power.

But in contrast to the expert panel's conclusive findings, the government affidavit reads: "It is submitted that the committee has observed that whatever was mandated in the procedural and substantive requirement of the law for environmental clearance, forest clearance and consent to establish, these projects have not been found to be deficient in such respects except for wildlife clearances, which have not been accorded so far."

The affidavit left out any mention of the serious and conclusive comments of the experts against the projects. The court took on record the submissions of the attorney general on record to mean the projects could now be approved. It's ordered a final hearing on the entire matter in mid-March and asked the ministry to file its final affidavit.

A detailed emailed query sent to environment minister Prakash Javadekar and the environment secretary went unanswered. Officials contacted on phone in the ministry said both were participating in a day-long meeting outside Delhi.

The government's need to assess six specific proposed projects on the Ganga tributaries arose out of two previous Supreme Court orders. The court had earlier imposed a ban on any new dams in Uttarakhand while the government studied how existing ones had contributed to the 2013 calamity in Uttarakhand that killed thousands. The government submitted in December 2014 that all expert advice and government committees warned that the dams had played a part in the disaster. They asked for a year to study all the projects cumulatively and comprehensively in the wake of the disaster.

But the court, on the plea of some developers, asked the ministry to assess six specific projects first. In one order they asked the projects be assessed as a cluster and a report be presented on these specifically. In another order, the court said the government should also come back on whether the six projects had all the requisite clearances at the time the proposals were appraised.

The ministry set up the four-member panel to do so. The panel did both - checked the status and legality of the existing clearances of the six projects and assessed their impact as a cluster in view of the Uttarakhand disaster. The panel found while the projects had most of the clearances at the time of the appraisal, these had been given much before the calamity in most cases. In the project-specific analysis of the impact, the committee found serious risks to the environment, people and biodiversity had not been assessed.

The panel said, "The construction of all six proposed projects in Alaknanda III, Dhauliganga and Bhagirathi IV sub-basins would almost double the impact in terms of the river length that would be affected. Projects in Bhagirathi IV and Dhauliganga basins would additionally affect 39 per cent and 29 per cent of the river lengths." All these basins are part of the larger upper Ganga basin. "The ecological footprints of these individual projects are significant and cannot be ignored in terms of their impacts... Moreover, five out of these six proposed projects fall within the critical wildlife habitats," the experts concluded.

It noted, "The committee is of the unanimous opinion that the clearances or licences needed to be viewed for any deficiencies as per the latest knowledge of environment and ecological protection and assessment methods. It was of the opinion that in the larger public interest and the safety and environmental and biodiversity security of the area surrounding these projects as well as to protect the unique ecological character of the area should be the prime concern in viewing these (old and existing) clearances."

The committee noted none of the six projects had carried out comprehensive hydrological studies to show how their dams would change the flow of the river. They had also not been studied on a cumulative basis though they are coming up close to other projects or in a cascade formation. In the Alaknanda project specifically, the experts concluded requisite safeguards against glacial formation had not been done. They said the Uttarakhand disaster of 2013 had caused extensive damage and devastation in the area of the project. "Any repeat of such an event would be catastrophic considering the religious importance of the Badrinath shrine."

The government's affidavit to the Supreme Court did not mention a word about these serious warnings in the report the committee gave the ministry.