News Flash – 22 August 2018

National News



104-years-old Kalyan bridge to be dismantled from today


Kalyan: Dismantling of the 104-year-old Patripool rail over bridge in Kalyan will begin from Wednesday, the latest in a series of bridges on railway tracks that are being overhauled by civic agencies. The decision to dismantle it was taken on Tuesday at a joint meeting held by Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), Central Railway (CR), Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and traffic department at the KDMC headquarters. A new six-lane bridge is likely to come up in its place. Last month the bridge was partially shut for heavy vehicles. Closure of the entire bridge is expected to cause traffic congestion as the only other link between the eastern and western sides of the suburb is the new, adjoining two-lane bridge. Residents said the closure would lead to traffic jams as motorists make their way to Dombivli, Thane, Vashi and Panvel. Patripool bridge, which has deteriorated over the last few years, was an intercity link to Navi Mumbai after the Mumbra bypass was closed. Built in 1914, it remained functional despite the commissioning of the new bridge built right next to it. Last month, it was partially closed to heavy vehicles after Central Railway, following the Gokhale bridge collapse, declared it unsafe.


KDMC commissioner Govid Bodke said, “At the meeting, it was decided that from tomorrow removal of utility services, like streetlights and BSNL cables, will begin, after which the railways will demolish the bridge”. He added, “Once the bridge is dismantled, MSRDC, which has issued tenders, said the new bridge work will begin in three months.” KDMC officials said an increase in traffic problems is expected but could not be helped. The traffic police wing has asked for additional wardens from MSRDC as traffic will have to be diverted through Waldhuni bridge, which has only two lanes. KDMC chief executive engineer Pramod Kulkarni said, “From Wednesday, all departments will remove the wiring, electricity connections and streetlights. From August 25, Central Railway will start dismantling the bridge, as per schedule.” Sources said vehicles have often rammed into the frame of height barriers placed on the ROB, which has worsened the situation.



6 rescued from fire near iconic bungalow



Mumbai: Six persons were rescued from the seven-storey Girnar Apartment in Pali Hill, Bandra, after a minor fire broke out early on Tuesday. It is in the same precinct as the iconic Girnar Bungalow where hundreds of Hindi movies, including ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi’, were filmed. A senior Mumbai fire brigade officer said, “We received a call around midnight and the fire was brought under control in time. There was no loss of life. The cause is yet to be established.” Residents blamed a short circuit in the air-conditioning unit of a first-floor apartment. Stockbroker Kapil Kapur, a fifth floor resident who had alerted Bandra police, said, “We opened the door after the electricity suddenly went off. The watchman quickly switched off the mains after noticing the fire. All residents gathered in the compound. Some went to their relatives’ homes as the lift was not working and there was no power supply. We stayed on as my mother had to catch a flight at 7am”.



UIDAI: Do not share Aadhaar on social media



New Delhi: Users should not put their Aadhaar number on the internet or social media just as they would not disclose details of their PAN, debit and credit cards and cheques to prevent an unwarranted invasion of privacy, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has said. Answering a series of FAQs, UIDAI said its advisory asking people not to share their Aadhaar number did not mean it could not be used freely. “You can freely use your Aadhaar to establish your identity as and when required without fear. While using Aadhaar, you should do the same level of due diligence as you do in case of other ID cards — not more, not less,” the UIDAI said. The authority said since most people do not unnecessarily put out details in the public domain, the same logic applied to Aadhaar. On whether anyone could harm a user by knowing and misusing an Aadhaar number, UIDAI said this was not possible. “In fact, an Aadhaar identity is instantly verifiable and hence more trusted (than other IDs). More significantly, an Aadhaar card is by law required to be verified by fingerprint, iris scan, OTP authentication and QR code.


Hence, it is near impossible to impersonate you if you use Aadhaar to prove your identity. People have been freely giving other identity documents such as passport, voter ID, PAN card, ration card, driving licence but did not stop for fear of impersonation,” UIDAI said. In the event of a fraudster obtaining a copy of an Aadhaar card and attempting to open a bank account, UIDAI said this could not be done merely on presentation or submission of a physical “card or photocopy”. A biometric or OTP authentication and other due diligence was mandatory. On the other hand, if a bank account was opened by accepting Aadhaar without biometric or OTP authentication, the bank was responsible for any loss. The authority said mere access to Aadhaar number would not lead to funds being accessed from a bank account.



2005 & 2018 lessons: Airports near rivers prone to flooding


Kochi: The flooding of Kochi airport in the past week is the latest example of the vulnerability of major Indian airports that have sprung up in the floodplains of rivers. That vulnerability could rise, say experts, as climate change is projected to increase extreme rainfall events. Cochin International Airport (CIAL) is expected to remain shut until August 28. The prolonged closure echoes what happened in Mumbai in 2005 and Chennai in 2015 when those cities were hit by floods due to unprecedented rainfall. Both cities saw their airport runways closed and operations affected for weeks following the flood. The airports were not only built near rivers but had expanded their runways into the nearby rivers. Kochi’s airport, built in the floodplains of the Periyar River, is relatively new. In the 1990s, “Kochi was at risk of falling off the aviation map entirely. Out of necessity, [the new airport] was founded on paddy fields and land that used to be part of the Chengal canal,” said a CIAL official. Locals and activists blame the development for aggravating flooding in the area. “Every river has a floodplain that is supposed to hold the water, and this is an integral part of the river. In Kerala, these floodplains usually manifest as canals and ponds,” says local environmentalist C R Neelakandan. CIAL managing director VJ Kurian, however, denied the airport had made the area flood-prone. Authorities did not build over the Chengal canal, he said, but diverted it to prevent flooding at the airport.


As Mumbai has seen, however, altering the course of a waterway can be disastrous. Both runways of the Mumbai airport were extended over the time across the adjacent Mithi River, squeezing the width of the channel. The second runway, built in the 1970s, created a right angle-bend in the river. The airport’s expansion is widely held to have contributed to the 2005 floods, when the Mithi River overflowed after hours of intense rainfall. Airport authorities have since sought to mitigate the problem by doubling the width of the Mithi as well as dredging the riverbed to make it deeper. Despite the 2005 experience, the Maharashtra government has decided to locate the region’s second airport near two rivers. Workers are already leveling a hill and diverting the Ulwe river for the Navi Mumbai airport. Officials say the Ulwe River’s mouth will be widened and the airport located above flood level. But surrounding villages are already complaining of more flooding. In Chennai, too, the second runway was extended in 2011 across Adyar River on a bridge supported by closely-stacked pillars that block water flow. Although the airport has flood retaining walls and a raised runway, they were no proof against the water released from Chembaramkkam dam after the 2015 intense rainfall. Authorities have since widened part of the river and regularly desilt the channel near the bridge. Why would anyone place a critical and expensive piece of infrastructure near a river? Probably because of the flat topography, says Kapil Gupta, professor of civil engineering at IIT-Bombay, who was consulted by the Mumbai airport after the 2005 floods.


He notes that at least 4km of flat land is needed for a runway, apart from what is needed for the adjacent facilities. Plus, older airports like Mumbai and Chennai were small when they were first built several decades ago and would not have been so close to the river. As air traffic increased, planes became bigger, and the city developed around them, these airports have expanded toward the river. Not every airport near a water body is vulnerable. Goa airport is a coastal one but is on a plateau with cliffs on two sides, deep storm water drains and the runways have water spill off channels. Mysuru airport is near two lakes and a stream but it is upstream of the water bodies and is not so vulnerable. The National Disaster Management Authority guidelines highlight the importance of airports in emergencies and recommend the provision of ample drainage and holding ponds. “Such ponds should be kept empty to absorb flood overflow,” said urban drainage expert Gupta, who had also recommended this measure to the Mumbai airport. Such holding ponds are present in Dulles airport in Washington DC as well as Heathrow in London. With 100 new airports proposed, experts say it’s vital to plan them well. “Ideally, you should not have critical infrastructure in a floodplain, but if you do, you need to design it properly for drainage,” says Gupta. “You need to build infrastructure to survive at least a100-year-flood”.



Heavy rain battered Kodagu’s 32 gram panchayats; 10k saved

ON A STRING & A PRAYER: Professional rock-climber CM Praveen cradles a two-month-old infant and zips 75 metres across a stream on a rope line in Thantipala, near Madikeri. “I prayed for the baby’s safety. It was the most difficult task and the best moment of my life,” he says.



Bengaluru: With the sky clear and the torrential rain taking a welcome break, the damage on the ground in Kodagu district has started appearing clearer. Authorities on Tuesday said the district’s 32 gram panchayats bore the brunt of the heavy rain in the past week, and at least 10,000 people were either rescued from marooned areas or shifted to relief camps in coordinated operations conducted by multiple agencies drawn from the state and the Centre. The Karnataka government has asked the district administration to prepare a detailed report on the total loss in the three taluks ravaged by rain, flooding and landslide incidents. Thousands of residents who helplessly watched floodwaters gushing into their properties are now gingerly trooping back in the hope of retrieving cash, valuables and documents from what remains of their houses. Kodagu minister SR Mahesh on Tuesday said 12 gram panchayats each in Madikeri and Somwarpet, and eight in Virajpet took the maximum hit in the rain havoc. “Even if the government must spend Rs 1,000 crore to rebuild Kodagu, there are no second thoughts (about the exercise),” he said.


He said chief minister HD Kumaraswamy will hand out the initial compensation of food grains and Rs 3,800 to each flood-affected family from next week. According to public works minister HD Revanna, the primary challenge is to rebuild roads and bridge. At least 1,660km of state and national highways came under water and rendered unmotorable. Besides Kodagu, the worst-hit districts are Dakshina Kannada, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru. The losses on road infrastructure have touched Rs 950 crore. Public works department officials said 50 bridges require immediate restoration. The flood-like situation has also eased in Mysuru, Hassan and Mandya as the outflow from the four major reservoirs has come down. A police officer said they will send out eight drones to the affected areas to find out if any more victims are still stranded in Kodagu district.



Enjoy rain, but watch out for sting: Vector scare flies high across city


Hyderabad: Rain over the past few days interspersed with dry spells has made residents wary about malaria and other vector-borne diseases. The threat of mosquito-borne diseases is even more for those residing in localities prone to waterlogging. Apart from those residing in residential areas located near water bodies, others from Gouri Shankar Nagar Colony (Banjara Hills), Rukmini Devi Colony (Mahatma Gandhi Nagar in West Marredpally), Hanuman Nagar (Kondapur), Kukatpally housing board Phase-1 and commuters at APIIC Software Layout (Mindspace, Madhapur) complained about mosquito menace. They demanded regular fogging to ward off mosquitoes and an increase in the frequency of spraying larvicides. “We are suffering due to the mosquito menace in our colony. Fogging machines are also not being sent to our area. I fear risks to our health if prompt action is not taken to fight mosquitoes,” said Rikab Chand from Rukmini Devi Colony (West Marredpally). However, GHMC officials said they were doing their best with the staff strength they have, and fogging material provided to them. “We are fogging most areas. In water bodies we are releasing oil balls to kill mosquito larva.


Weekly anti-larval operations are also being taken up,” said V Venkatesh, GHMC chief entomologist. A senior GHMC officer said that 327 mosquito breeding locations have been identified and these will be geo-tagged. Generally, mosquito menace is high from February to mid-April due to favourable temperature for mosquitoes to breed and stagnant water in lakes and storm water drains unlike monsoon. Most of the mosquito-related complaints received this month were primarily due to waterlogging in residential areas and streets. In some places, the menace was due to accumulated garbage. GHMC officials also said that the onus of keeping premises free from stagnant water was with the people. “We are conducting awareness campaigns every Friday in schools, residential localities and other educational institutions. We are also educating people through mosquito app on vector-borne diseases and how to avoid them,” said V Venkatesh.



Rain wreaks havoc, claims 9 lives, damages crop in Telangana


Hyderabad: The heavy rains that lashed many parts of Telangana for the last four days receded on Tuesday even as Godavari, Manjira and several streams continue to receive flood discharge, raising the hopes of farmers, who have not yet taken up the Khariff operations. The incessant rains, however, claimed nine lives, damaged hundreds of houses, and submerged standing crop spread over six lakh acres. Officials are assessing the damage in different districts. Two people died in a house collapse incident in Asifabad taking the rain-related toll this monsoon in Telangana to nine. In Adilabad alone about 6,500 houses in 400 villages were affected. Farmers under Sriramsagar project ayacut, who have been agitating for release of water for the last one month, are a happy lot now. With the Sriramsagar dam half full, thanks to steady inflows from the upper reaches of the Godavari, the state government has decided to release water for irrigation. The flood in the Krishna has receded while the water level in the Godavari has been increasing in the last two days. Warning signal two has been issued at Bhadrachalam at the water level reached the danger mark of 48 ft. With several hilly streams and rivulets in spate and overflowing at many places, road transport continued to be affected on Tuesday. The Singur dam across the Manjira is also receiving flood water from the upstream. Power supply was affected at a few places, but it was restored as the flood waters receded. Over two dozen villages have been cut off due to overflowing streams. Undivided Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Nalgonda, and Khammam districts were the worst hit. Cotton crop spread over thousands of acres were lost while the rains helped the farmers to go in for sowings.



Tamil Nadu volunteers launch site to provide victims temporary homes



Chennai: Following the devastating floods in Kerala that have cost several lives, a team of entrepreneurs from Chennai formed a volunteer group and launched a website on Tuesday, to connect the displaced with families willing to temporarily accommodate them. Titled ‘’, the platform aims to relocate affected people to safer areas in and around Kerala and Tamil Nadu until basic infrastructure in the state is restored. “Lakhs of people are reported to be housed in relief camps. Restructuring of power lines and roads could take more than a month, and in the meantime, we came across a growing number of people willing to accommodate them but not knowing how to help. We launched this as a service to connect this demand with supply,” says Santosh Muruganantham, founder and CEO of Kolapasi, and one of the volunteers. The team has been connecting with volunteers residing in Kerala’s border and a few towns in Tamil Nadu, including Nagercoil, Madurai and Coimbatore, and also partnered with travel companies and the Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association, to help transport people to safer locations.


Those willing to host can register on with a listing that would display their name and address. When someone tries to contact them, they will be notified with an SMS connecting them to the guest. Bezlon, a resident of Nagercoil, was among the first to register, and says this was an extension to the relief work he had already been doing monetarily and by sending supplies to the flood-affected state. “We live about 50km from the Kerala border and have friends there who have been affected by this calamity. And that is why we decided to open our home to anyone who needs to be relocated. We can accommodate them for about three weeks and provide them with all basic necessities they may need,” he says. “This portal is our first initiative towards an effective disaster management solution across the country, and could be used in the future too. We’re still at a nascent stage and only have the supply lines open for anyone looking to be relocated. We’re in talks with the police and local authorities in Kerala to work in tandem with them,” says actor Aari, one of the volunteers.



International News



Taliban fire rockets at President palace in Afghanistan

Smoke rises from the site of an attack in Kabul on Tuesday.



Kabul: The Taliban fired a pair of rockets on Tuesday toward the presidential palace in Kabul as the Afghan president was delivering his holiday message for Eid, police said, prompting a aerial response with helicopter gunships bombing the house from where the rockets were reportedly launched. The first rocket landed somewhere near the presidency building while the second hit near a Nato compound and the US embassy but no one was hurt, said police official Jan Agha. The boom of the rockets was heard in the live broadcast of President Ashraf Ghani’s speech. As he also heard the thud, Ghani interrupted his message to say: “If they are thinking the rocket attack will keep Afghans down, they are wrong”. Police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzia said police had noticed a suspicious vehicle earlier on Tuesday and followed it to a mud-brick house near the Eid Gah mosque where hundreds had gathered to offer prayers for Eid.


Once inside the house, the suspects are believed to have fired the rockets, Stanekzia said. A helicopter gunship bombed the location, destroying the house and the vehicle. Eyewitnesses said after the explosions, sporadic shooting could be heard from the area, though it wasn’t clear who was firing. Another police official, Mohammed Akram, said four attackers were apparently involved though it was unclear if any survived the helicopter assault on the house. Police were combing the area. Shortly afterward, all the attackers were killed, said interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish. Two members of the Afghan security forces were wounded in the firefight. There was no immediate statement from the Taliban, or a claim of responsibility for the attack by any other militant group, but the assault on Eid sent a stark message. It was also another blow to Ghani’s efforts to bring the insurgents to the negotiation table. Pakistan’s new PM Imran Khan condemned the “cowardly” attack in Kabul.

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