SUPREME COURT: SHUTTING DOWN INDUSTRIES A PRICE TO PAY FOR RIGHT TO LIVE IN HEATHY ENVIRONMENT

The killer smog of Delhi has again forced us think where are we heading with rapid industrialisation of our country and its reflection in the society, especially when the governments have failed to take effective corrective measures to check the worsening situation and we are looking again to our courts, the custodians of our Constitution and thus the guarantor of our lives, for relief.

While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) today rapped the Delhi Government again as it failed to come up with a concrete plan to deal with Delhi pollution in spite of the smog continuing for over a week, the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear later today a plea on alarming level of pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). While accepting the pea filed by Supreme Court lawyer RK Kapoor, Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that the problem had reached to such levels that it could no longer be ignored.

The higher courts, led by the Supreme Court of India, have, from time to time, worked as environmental watchdogs reminding the government and the industry where to draw the line whenever pollution reaches to alarming levels threatening the ecological balance. The Supreme Court, in fact, way back in 1988 had clearly laid out that if pollution by industries reached to an alarming level, they must be shut down irrespective of the investment made in them and their importance for making products useful for society.

RURAL LITIGATION & ENTITLEMENT KENDRA VS STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH – AUGUST 30, 1988
(DEHRADUN QUARRYING CASE)

This case was a first where the Supreme Court, concerned by environmental degradation and ecological imbalance it could have caused, passed a landmark order to stop illegal mining. Through this judgement, the apex court tried to define the limit up to which natural resources (here forest) could be exploited to meet the demands of industry and development.

The case goes back to 1980s. Decades of mining in limestone quarries of the Dehradun Valley stripped the Himalayan Mountains of green vegetation in the state of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand) against which the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, an NGO, wrote a letter to the Supreme Court in 1983.

The court treated the letter as a writ-petition starting thus a series of hearings which finally ended in a verdict that for the first time dealt comprehensively with environment review, assessment of national needs from mining activities and reforestation of the affected area.

While delivering the verdict, the court came down heavily on the mining industry of the area, closed their operations and said it was a price that had to be paid to ensure the right to healthy environment, “The consequence of this Order made by us would be that the lessees of lime stone quarries which have been directed to be closed down permanently under this Order or which may be directed to be closed down permanently after consideration of the report, would be thrown out of business in which they have invested large sums of money and expanded considerable time and effort. This would undoubtedly cause hardship to them but it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in healthy environment with minimal disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazard to them and to their cattle, homes and agricultural land and undue affectation of air, water and environment. “

The apex court also put the government’s responsibility in clear terms while passing the order under the recently enacted Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, “Maintenance of the environment and ecological balance was the obligation of the State and the Central Governments.”

©SantoshChaubey

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RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: SHRIRAM GAS LEAK CASE

M.C. MEHTA VS UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS – DECEMBER 20, 1986
(THE SHRIRAM GAS LEAK CASE)

Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers (SFF) was a DCM subsidiary, in fact one of its most profitable ventures. It had various units housed in single complex producing Chlorine and other chemicals. The facility was surrounded by thickly populated localities like West Patel Nagar, Punjabi Bagh, Tri Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Ashok Vihar and Karampura.

In December 1985, oleum gas, that was used in making DDT, leaked from a tank of the SFF factory and soon spread to the populated areas around the factory. The aftermath saw around 700 people being hospitalised for eye irritation and respiratory symptoms and death of a lawyer seven Kms away from the factory, at the Tis Hazari court complex.

The Supreme Court, taking a tough stand in the case, for the first time laid down the principal of absolute liability holding the SFF responsible for putting people’s life at risk by compromising environment. The court observed,

“….gas is admittedly dangerous to life and health. If the gas escapes either from the storage tank or from the filled cylinders or from any other point in the course of production, the health and wellbeing of the people living in the vicinity can be seriously affected. Thus Shriram is engaged in an activity which has the potential to invade the right to life of large sections of people.”

Refuting all the contentions made by the DCM that since it was a private corporation, it could not come under the ambit of activities affecting the Article 21, the apex court went on to enlarge its scope including the right to healthy environment as it directly affected the quality of human life. While accepting the compensation claims made in the case, it said the “applications for compensation were for enforcement of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and while dealing with such applications, the court could not adopt a hypertechnical approach which would defeat the ends of justice.”

©SantoshChaubey

POLLUTION DEATHS: NO SURPRISE INDIA HAS WORST INDICATORS HERE

If India has been found as the country with highest number of pollution related deaths or simply say pollution deaths, there are valid reasons behind it, the easily visible valid reasons.

We are lagging on most of the social indicators. The Global Hunger Index released last week placed India at 97th among the 118 countries ranked. The latest Human Development Index puts India at 131. We are home to the largest population of illiterate, poor, malnourished and hungry people in the world.

And so the natural corollary of it is – we are expected to top every ranking on social indicators if turned upside down – ranked highest among the worst performers – like this study on pollution deaths – done meticulously by The Lancet, the world’s most familiar and reputed medical journal.

The study done by The Lancet’s “Commission on Pollution and Health” estimates 9 million people lost their lives in 2015 due to different types of pollution and India, with 2.51 million deaths or 28 per cent of the total, tops the charts.

The study finds pollution deaths or deaths caused by the diseases due to environmental causes is now the largest global killer of humans, three times more than HIV-AIDS, Malaria and TB deaths combined and is neck to neck when deaths due to obesity (4 million), alcohol consumption (2.3 million), road accidents (1.4 million) and malnutrition and hunger (1.4 million) put together.

One in six deaths globally and one in four deaths in India in 2015 was due to some sort of environmental pollution – air pollution, water pollution, occupational pollution, soil pollution, workplace related pollution, chemical pollution and so on – the study findings say.

92 per cent of all pollution deaths are reported from rapidly industrialising nations like China, India and Brazil or low or middle-income countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Congo and The Philippines among others. After India, the other countries with most number of pollution deaths include China (1.83 million), Pakistan (0.31 million), Nigeria (0.25 million), Indonesia (0.21 million), Russia (0.17 million), USA (0.15 million), Congo (0.12 million), Brazil (0.1 million) and The Philippines (0.09 million).

Air pollution is the largest killer of all with 6.5 million worldwide deaths in 2015 while it killed 1.81 million people in India. India is followed by China (1.58 million), Pakistan (0.22 million), Bangladesh (0.21 million) and Russia (0.14 million) in maximum number of air pollution deaths.

Water pollution is the second largest killer with 1.8 million deaths. India is at top with 0.64 million water pollution deaths followed by Nigeria (0.16 million). Workplace pollutants killed 0.8 million in 2015, emerging as the third largest human killers. Occupational exposure (0.17 million deaths) and lead pollution (95000 deaths) are other major pollution death categories in India.

Five Indians contributed to the study including Congress leader and former Environment Minister of the country Jairam Ramesh Mukesh Khare, a civil engineering professor at IIT, Delhi. The other three, Prof Niladri Basu, Bindu L Lohani and Gautam Yadama are based out of India.

©SantoshChaubey

MAKE IN INDIA DIWALI? REPORT SAYS SALE OF CHINESE PRODUCTS MAY DECLINE BY 45%

The article originally appeared on India Today on October 9.

An Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) survey has found that the prevailing anti-China sentiment in the country can result in 40-45 per cent decline in the sale of Chinese products this Diwali when compared to their sale last year.

A quick survey by ASSOCHAM-Social Development Foundation (ASDF) has said that be it decorative items like lights, gift items, lamps, Ganesha and Laxmi idols, rangolis, wall hangings crackers or even the electronic products like mobile phones, the decline is visible across all the sectors.

The ASSOCHAM survey that was conducted across multiple cities, i.e., Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Chennai, Dehradun, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Mumbai, found that people were preferring Indian goods over Chinese products and were demanding Indian lights and earthen diyas and shopkeepers were stacking products this festive season accordingly.

According to the ASSOCHAM release, the share of Chinese products during Diwali festivities last year was estimated to be 30 per cent or around Rs 6500 crore and Rs 4500 crore of it came from only Diwali related items like toys, fancy lights, gift items, plastic ware, decorative goods etc.

The ASSOCHAM paper also found that the demand of electronic items like LCDs, mobile phones and others items made in China has also declined by 15-20%.

India-China relations are going through a rough patch especially after the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the border row between the countries in the Doklam region of the Sikkim sector that saw an abrupt end in the last week of August. Though India claims a status quo has been maintained in the region ever since then, there are conflicting reports emerging in the media that China is again scaling up its operations in the disputed border territory.

Also, some reports in August had claimed that the Doklam standoff had adversely affected business of Oppo and Vivo in India, two major mobile manufactures from China. A report in the Economic Times had said that 400 expat Chinese workers were being sent back after the sale of smartphones of these companies fell sharply in July and August months owing to the ‘anti-Beijing sentiment’.

©SantoshChaubey

CLEANING THE GANGA: GANGA ACTION PLAN PHASE 1

STATALES

14 JUNE 1985: LAUNCHED
MARCH 31, 2000: DECLARED CLOSED

INITIAL OBJECTIVE IN 1985: IMPROVING THE GANGA WATER QUALITY TO ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS (VAGUE)

REVISED AND CLEAR OBJECTIVE – IN 1987: RESTORING THE GANGA WATER QUALITY TO BATHING STANDARD

COST

  • RS. 256.26 CRORE: ORIGINAL SANCTIONED COST
    RS. 462.04 CRORE: REVISED SANCTIONED COST, APPROVED IN AUGUST 1994

AREA COVERED
25 CLASS-I TOWNS SPREAD ACROSS FOUR STATES

  • 6 TOWNS: UTTAR PRADESH
  • 4 TOWNS: BIHAR
  • 15 TOWNS: WEST BENGAL

STATUS OF SCHEMES

  • WEST BENGAL: 110 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – ALL COMPLETED
  • UTTAR PRADESH: 106 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – ALL COMPLETED
  • BIHAR: 45 SCHEMES SANCTIONED – 44 COMPLETED

WASTEWATER TREATMENT CAPACITY CREATED

  • 1340 MLD: TOTAL ESTIMATED WASTEWATER IN 25 TOWNS COVERED UNDER PHASE-I
  • 868.69 MLD: SEWAGE TREATMENT CAPACITY CREATED UNDER PHASE-I
  • 882.19 MLD: SEWAGE CAPACITY CREATION TARGET OF GANGA ACTION PLAN PHASE-I
  • WEST BENGAL: 371.06 MLD – 15 PROJECTS
  • UTTAR PRADESH: 375.09 MLD – 13 PROJECTS
  • BIHAR: 122 MLD – 6 PROJECTS (TARGET – 7 PROJECTS)

©SantoshChaubey

FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON LAUNCHES WEBSITE AND INVITES US CLIMATE SCIENTISTS TO MAKE FRANCE THEIR HOMELAND

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Taking his criticism of US President Donald Trump’s stand on climate change to the next level, French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a website inviting US scientists and research scholars to live in France and do research there on climate change. Earlier this month, after the US exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, he had assured the US scientists that France was like a second homeland for them.

The website ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ (www.makeourplanetgreatagain.fr), an apparent dig at Donald Trump’s favourite slogan ‘Make America Great Again (#MAGA), says it is an initiative of President of France Emmanuel Macron who launched it to invite American scientists to “come work in France after facing the climatic skepticism of the new government of the United States.”

Macron says “he wants to make our planet great again” and appeals to the scientists that “the planet needs their innovative skills” and asks “if they you IN to change (literally) our daily lives and make our planet great again?” While terming the US decision unfortunate, he says “it has only reinforced our determination. Don’t let it weaken yours. We are ONE planet and together, we can make a difference.”

On June 1, US President Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a global climate pact to deal with emission of greenhouse gases. 195 countries signed the agreement document in December 2015 and 147 countries have ratified it so far and the agreement came into effect on November 4, 2016. Trump has been a vocal critic of the Paris climate deal and he had promised to cancel the deal if he became the US President.

After Trump’s announcement, according to France 24*, while slamming Trump for making a historic mistake, Macron said the US scientists and entrepreneurs “disappointed” by Trump’s decision “will find in France a second homeland: I call on them, come and work here with us.”

It was unprecedented when he chose to address the world in English from Elysee Place, the official residence of the French president, after Trump’s no to Paris Accord. It was, in fact, a first for a French president, The Telegraph** said. Also, the press release sent to French journalists from the Elysee Palace on the website launch was in English, again “an unprecedented move by a French president”, the France 24 report said.

Macron, in fact, had released a video statement in English on Twitter on February 10, while he was campaigning for the French presidential polls, calling the US scientists and entrepreneurs working on climate change to relocate to France after Trump had decided to curtail the climate change research budget.

US withdrawing from the Paris Accord is certainly a bad news as the country is the second largest emitter of the greenhouse gases. China, the European Union and the US account for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions, an analysis from the World Resources Institute says. The US exit is bound to affect the norms and goals of the Paris Accord even if other large emitters including India, Russia, European Union and China have reiterated their commitment.

©SantoshChaubey

SCIENTIST ACCUSES TRUMP OF MISUSING MIT STUDY TO JUSTIFY US EXIT FROM PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

The article originally appeared on India Today.

An MIT scientist has accused US President Donald Trump of manipulation and misuse of an MIT study he co-authored to justify the decision of pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the first global climate pact with worldwide representation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The agreement signed by 195 countries in Paris in December 2015 has been ratified by 147 countries so far.

While Trump blasted the Paris Accord of being unfair to the US, at the same time, he tried to downplay the global agreement as ineffective in combating the climate change by quoting an MIT finding, though without naming it, “It is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.” But soon it emerged that Trump had picked up selective information to justify the rationale behind his decision.

According to an article in the MIT Technology Review, Donald Trump and his team quoted figures from an earlier MIT study which was done a year before the Paris Climate Agreement was signed and therefore could not factor in the emission pledges of all the signatories to the accord.

Erwan Monier, co-author of the study, “How much of a difference will the Paris Agreement make?”, and principal research scientist at MIT’s department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences says “It appears that the White House cherry picked the lowest number they could find among studies that explored the impact of the climate accord”. And as per Monier, the Trump administration didn’t contact the MIT team before quoting its findings.

The 2016 MIT study which took into account emission pledges of all the participating nations came to the conclusion that the Paris Agreement was the first step in the right direction and if the participating countries followed their pledges, it could “reduce the surface air temperature in 2100 between 0.6 and 1.1 C relative to the no climate policy case” and thus could slow down the global warming process.

The 2016 study also emphasized that tacking climate change and global warming needed much more. Monier says, “The Paris agreement is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. It puts us on the right path to keep warming under 3 C, but even under the same level of commitment of the Paris agreement after 2030, our study indicates a 95 percent probability that the world will warm by more than 2 C by 2100”. And in absence of any global climate control framework, the earth may warm up to 5 C or more, a Time report said quoting co-director of the MIT program John Reilly.

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP TO ANNOUNCE TONIGHT HIS DECISION ON PARIS CLIMATE DEAL

US President Donald Trump will announce today his decision on the Paris Climate Deal. He tweeted that he will make public his decision at 3 PM Thursday local time (12:30 AM Friday India time).

The whole world is embracing for a Donald Trump decision on the most ambitious climate control pact of our recent times. US withdrawing from it will be bad news as the country is the second largest emitter of the greenhouse gases and its exit is bound to affect the norms and goals of the accord even if other larger emitters including India, Russia, European Union and China has reiterated their commitment. During his recent visit to European countries and to the Vatican, European leaders and Pope Francis urged him stay with the climate pact.

But reports in the US media are almost unanimous that Trump will withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord even if he is facing backlash back at home. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is on the Business Advisory Council of the White House has said that he will quit the advisory board in case Trump withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods has written a letter to Donald Trump requesting him to stay in the Paris Accord. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been trying to convince Trump to go for dilution of commitments instead of complete withdrawal, a CNN report said. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democrat rival in the last year’s presidential election and former US Secretary of State, has said it would be “incredibly foolish” and “totally incomprehensible” to pull out of the agreement”.

A CNN report Wednesday said, based on its interaction with two senior US officials, that Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and a formal announcement can be made as early as this week.

Fox News wrote, quoting the Associated Press, that though Trump is expected to withdraw from the agreement, “but officials cautioned that there may be “caveats in the language,” leaving open the possibility that the decision is not final” while a Time report said that “Trump has told aides he intends to pull out of the agreement but has not decided exactly how to do it”.

Axios, a new media company, wrote on the development that “President Trump has made his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the decision.” The Axios report says that modalities of withdrawal are being worked out by a team led US Environment Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who believes Paris Climate Agreement is a “bad business deal” and has called for an exit from it. The exit route can be “a full, formal withdrawal” that may take up to three years or the “exiting the United Nations Climate Change Treaty, a faster but more extreme process”, the Axios report further wrote.

Another report in Politico says that “President Donald Trump is planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to a White House official”. The Politico report states that it would be second such development when the US has rejected a global climate treaty after endorsing it. In 2001, then US President George W Bush, a Republican, had withdrawn from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, that was accepted by his Democrat predecessor Bill Clinton. This time also, it is a Republican president who is going to overturn a decision by his Democrat predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump has been a vocal critic of the Paris climate deal and he had promised to cancel the deal if he became the US President. During the recently held G7 Summit in Sicily, he behaved on the issue like he was acting unilaterally. While six G7 members, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Japan and Canada reiterated their commitment for the 2015 Paris climate deal, Trump remained non-committal saying he needed more time to think over it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was blunt in her criticism over Trump’s stand saying the developments say the US will not stay with the climate deal.

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP TO PULL US OUT OF PARIS CLIMATE DEAL?

Reports in the US media say US President Donald Trump has decided to pull the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement which came into force on November 4, 2016, news agency AFP has tweeted.

A CNN report Wednesday said, based on its interaction with two senior US officials, that Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and a formal announcement can be made as early as this week.

Axios, a new media company, wrote on the development that “President Trump has made his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the decision.” The Axios report says that modalities of withdrawal are being worked out by a team led US Environment Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who believes Paris Climate Agreement is a “bad business deal” and has called for an exit from it. The exit route can be “a full, formal withdrawal” that may take up to three years or the “exiting the United Nations Climate Change Treaty, a faster but more extreme process”, the Axios report further wrote.

Another report in Politico says that “President Donald Trump is planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to a White House official”. The Politico report states that it would be second such development when the US has rejected a global climate treaty after endorsing it. In 2001, then US President George W Bush, a Republican, had withdrawn from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, that was accepted by his Democrat predecessor Bill Clinton. This time also, it is a Republican president who is going to overturn a decision by his Democrat predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump has been a vocal critic of the Paris climate deal and he had promised to cancel the deal if he became the US President. During the recently held G7 Summit in Sicily, he behaved on the issue like he was acting unilaterally. While six G7 members, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Japan and Canada reiterated their commitment for the 2015 Paris climate deal, Trump remained non-committal saying he needed more time to think over it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was blunt in her criticism over Trump’s stand saying the developments say the US will not stay with the climate deal.

©SantoshChaubey

A NON-COMMITTAL DONALD TRUMP MAY PUSH CHINA TO WORK WITH INDIA IN FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Global Times, one of the mouthpieces of China’s People’s Daily, the official newspaper and mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party, has once again come up with a report appealing that India and China should work together to fight the climate change, especially after the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.

The report says, “US President-elect Donald Trump said earlier in 2016 that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax” and has suggested that he is disinclined to commit to the Paris Climate Agreement. In light of this, China and India should play a much stronger leading role in the international effort against climate change.”

The report that focuses on the intense fog in Delhi and northern India and likens it to Chinese pollution and Beijing’s smog alerts, says that both, India and China, are the world’s top polluters and it is “meaningless to debate whose air quality is better”.

China is the world’s largest polluter and India ranks at number three behind America in emitting the greenhouse gases contributing to the global warming. In the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 10 are in India and four in China.

So, that makes sense, even if India and China differ on many issues and even if this official mouthpiece, Global Times, regularly comes up with articles and opinions suggesting why India should not be given the NSG membership or why India’s efforts towards a permanent membership of the UN Security Council are futile or why India should control anti-China content in its media or how the Chinese goods are being victimised by boycott calls in India.

Because climate change and the subsequent global warming will affect all, irrespective of who is the biggest culprit, America, the world’s most industrialised nation whose per capita emission at 19.86 tons is almost eight times to that of India’s 2.44 tons, or China, the largest emitter currently with over 25 per cent share of global emission while India is still at 7 per cent. Even China’s per capita emission is more than three times of India’s as per the figures of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

And because now there is a very real possibility that the world’s second largest emitter can walk away the landmark agreement. Donald Trump, during the campaign phase, had said in unequivocal terms that if elected, he would withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, adopted in December 2015 and came into effect the last month. Though, after his election, he had said in an interview that he had now an open mind about the Paris Climate Agreement, his stand is still viewed as being non-committal on the agreement that many believe is humanity’s last chance before environmental destruction becomes irreversible.

Most emitters in the top-10 list are advanced societies with less population like the US, Japan, Russia and the EU countries. They have technological superiority in the environmental protection techniques and can afford them, certainly a problem area when it comes to India and China, the world’s two economies in top three with over 36 per cent share of the world’s population. According to an estimate, 70 per cent of sewage generated by urban India goes untreated and advanced waste water treatment technologies are prohibitively expensive for the developing economies.

The Global Times report recognises this saying “China and India should encourage scientific institutions, environmental groups and firms to cooperate on research to develop environmentally friendly techniques that are tailored for both countries”.

Here are two burgeoning economies, buzzing with manufacturing, construction and energy industries, catering to an ever increasing demand of masses, and now they have to retain their emission levels and control pollution. And a collaboration in this area can show the way ahead like the “clean energy vehicle technologies and electric cars” as this article proposes. We all know that the vehicular pollution is the biggest contributor to the deadly smog that every now and then blankets our cities.

©SantoshChaubey