News Flash – 27 August 2018

National News



993 deaths this monsoon, and still counting



New Delhi: Kerala may have grabbed the country’s attention with close to 400 deaths and widespread destruction in one of the worst floods in the state’s history, but nearly 600 lives were lost in four other states due to overflowing rivers, with the home ministry putting the total figure at 993. More than 70 lakh people were affected and 17 lakhs were living in relief camps, the disaster management division of the home ministry said. Apart from Kerala, the other flood hit states are UP, West Bengal, Karnataka and Assam. While Kerala reported the highest loss of lives due to floods, UP saw 204 deaths, West Bengal 195, Karnataka 161 and Assam 46. In Kerala, 54 lakh people were affected and 14.52 lakh people were living in relief camps. In Assam, 11.46 lakh people were affected and 2.45 lakh were in relief camps. An estimate by the National Disaster Management Authority (till 2005) put the loss of lives at an average 1,600 every year due to floods. The damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities was in excess of Rs 4,745 crore annually with 12% of the country’s geographical area being flood prone. In 2017, more than 1,200 people died in flood-related incidents, as per the official estimates reported by state governments. Bihar accounted for the highest 514 deaths, followed by West Bengal with 261, Assam 160, Maharashtra 124 and UP 121.


Four of these states had 34 million affected and 22.81 lakh living in relief camps. The situation was no different in 2016. Home ministry data on the flood situation showed 936 deaths— Bihar reporting 254 followed by MP 184, Maharashtra 145 and Uttarakhand 102, among others. The Centre is yet to impress upon states to make compulsory provision in their budget for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and building resilience rather than spending scarce state and central resources on relief and rehabilitation after every natural calamity. The home ministry recently carried out risk assessment of 640 districts in India. It created a national resilience index based on performance of states and Union Territories on DRR measures such as risk assessment, risk prevention and mitigation, disaster relief and rehabilitation and disaster reconstruction. The study showed that the level of resilience to disaster was very low and needed “considerable improvement”. “Most states have not conducted comprehensive state specific assessment of hazards, vulnerabilities and exposures of the changing dynamics and complexities of disasters,” the report said. Assessments made by states were based on “very coarse scale” without in-depth study at district or village level, relying merely on the vulnerability atlas of India.



Incessant rain exposes shoddy road repair works in Old City


Charminar: The incessant rain exposed the shoddy road repair works carried out recently in many parts of the Old City areas, which has become a headache for commuters and pedestrians. Apart from the pathetic condition of the roads, waterlogging and traffic jams has added to the chaos in Charminar surroundings. The road leading towards New Laadbazaar, Punch Mohallah, Moghalpura, Fateh Darwaza, Shahgunj, Hussaini Alam, Moosabowli and Puranapul have turned into a bad shape. The sorry state of these roads give bumpy rides to motorists and cause a traffic jams for several minutes leaving traffic policemen helpless. Taking strong exception against the pathetic condition of the road and certain civic issues that persist in the Old City localities, the Telangana TDP vice president Ali Masqati said the rains and bad roads have created havoc for commuters.


“The ruling party claims that they are prompt in addressing public grievances, but in Old City most of the roads are in bad shape and commuters and pedestrians also face waterlogging problem. Though the road repair works were carried out recently but steady spell of rain exposed the cheap quality of material used for the repair work,” said Masqati. The TDP urged GHMC to provide better roads and maintain hygienic ambience in Old City. “The government boasts about making the city clean and green, but Old City has turned into a dirt city. There is no proper drainage system or channels to clear waterlogging. I request GHMC to address public woes instead of asking them to pay their respective tax,” added Masqati.



Six states sitting on edge as draft green norms hang fire


New Delhi: Over four years and three draft notifications since March 2014 when the Centre recognised the need to prevent further degradation of the fragile ecology of Western Ghats, it has failed to bring six states on board for urgent action. As a result, 56,825 sq. km of ‘ecologically sensitive’ area could not be earmarked as ‘no go’ zone for polluting activities and deforestation — a prerequisite to save the region from constant environmental degradation. Earmarking Kerala’s 9,993 sq. km as Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA) four years ago may not have saved the state from excessive rainfall but the delay is certainly making the state, along with five others in the Western Ghats, more vulnerable. Since the demarcated areas remain on paper despite the draft being notified thrice in four years, continued deforestation has left the stretch of 1,500 km running through the six states prone to landslides and floods even in a situation of ‘above normal’ rainfall during a short period of time. “High rainfall needs vegetated hills to break the rain’s energy and clear drainage lines (stream and rivers) to safely take the silt and water to the seas. Over time, denudation of hills, raising of dams, diversion of drainage lines and occupation of floodplains created a recipe for what has been witnessed,” environmentalist Manoj Misra said. “Unless ‘business as usual’ is reversed, Kerala 2018 is not the last that the nation has seen,” Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said while noting that destruction of ‘ecologically sensitive’ area in Kerala was one of the reasons for the devastation it witnessed this month.


Every time the environment ministry notified the ESA draft, as recommended by a high level working group (HLWG) headed by space scientist K Kasturirangan, it asked the Western Ghats states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — to submit their views or objections. The process, however, has already seen a four-year delay. It has got entangled in states’ objections — mainly from Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. “As a result, large-scale deforestation, mining and construction are continuing unabated, hurting the ecology of Western Ghats. Such harmful practices will increase the intensity of disaster. This flood (in Kerala) would have happened in any case. The destruction of Western Ghats made its impact worse,” said Chandra Bhushan, climate change expert at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The HLWG had submitted its recommendations on earmarking ESA in April 2013 after examining details of an earlier report by ecologist Madhav Gadgil. Both reports had flagged need to earmark ESA to prevent deforestation in Western Ghats. The ministry wants the states to speed up the process. It told Parliament last month that “finalisation of draft notification is subject to the final views of state governments”.



Traffic realignment to focus on making tram stops safer


Kolkata: A major traffic realignment is taking place across south Kolkata with tram stoppages being central to the scheme. Trams, despite being environment friendly and a symbol of the city’s multi-modal transport system, often pose problems for the ever-increasing traffic demand. The realignment will reduce accidents, congestion, erratic movement of commuters and increase safety of tram passengers. Askew of measures have been chalked out in an effort to make tram rides safer, including aligning the tram stops with signal posts and having textured platforms (not raised) to make boarding and getting off trams for easier, explained a senior officer of WBTC (the unified entity of three state transport undertakings — CSTC, CTC and WBSTC). DPS Road and Rashbehari Avenue will be the first to get the realignment, which will later be replicated across the city. The city’s tram system lost a lot of passengers when the tracks were de-reserved and were moved to the middle of the carriageway, leaving passengers in danger while accessing it. This problem took centre stage last year when a woman Jyoti Singh got caught between a tram and a bus and came under the latter’s wheels on Rashbehari Avenue.


A survey was carried out at Rashbehari Avenue and DPS Road-S P Mukherjee Road stretch. The committee recommended a two-inch sloping platform with textured surface as tram platforms. These platforms will ensure cars slow down near tram stops, so that no passenger is in danger of being hit by a speeding vehicle. The trams will now be synchronized with traffic signals, stopping at red lights to help passengers get on and off easily. The usual stoppage every 200m will be done away with, said a WBTC officer. Once integrated with signals, pedestrian movement can also be controlled and there will be better synchronization of different modes of transport. This will help make movement of vehicular traffic smoother and allow trams to get regular passengers for better sustainability.



Isro to provide healing touch to Siachen Soldiers

Isro will be providing medical services to soldiers deployed in the far-flung areas through a satellite-based telemedicine programme.



New Delhi: In an effort to provide emergency medical treatment to security forces deployed in remote areas like Siachen Glacier, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has recently signed an agreement with the defence ministry for setting up telemedicine nodes. The space agency will establish 53 more nodes in the first phase to existing 20 set up for the Army, Navy and Air Force across the country. Explaining the significance of these nodes, Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI, “In remote areas like Siachen Glacier, there is no permanent hospital or medical centres for security personnel. Through our satellite-based telemedicine programme, we can provide medical services to soldiers deployed in these farflung areas. We set up small telemedicine hubs in these areas and link them to big hospitals in cities through our GSAT series communication satellites. Specialist doctors in these hospitals interact with ailing or injured soldiers and prescribe them medicines. The prescribed medicines are then provided to ailing soldiers from the medicine stock stored in that place”. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for telemedicine nodes was signed on Friday between development and education communication unit (DECU) of Isro, Ahmedabad, and Integrated Defence Staff (Medical), defence ministry, in Delhi.


The highest battleground in the world, Siachen remains cut off during winter due to extreme climatic conditions and difficult terrain. Soldiers have to brave freezing temperatures, which drop to 60 degrees Celsius. Besides the enemy, jawans have to face challenges like avalanches and landslides at such icy heights. The only mode of evacuation from these posts during medical emergency is by helicopters, and this also may not be feasible for days at times. In such a difficult condition, communication through the satellite-enabled telemedicine nodes is a boon for soldiers. Sivan said, “Isro is setting up these nodes not only for security forces deployed in remote areas, but also for rural people who can’t come to cities to avail of medical services during medical emergency. Specialist doctors from big hospitals like AIIMS, who can’t visit these areas on a short notice, provide medical services to the needy through our programme”. Isro, which initiated the telemedicine programme in 2001, has now spread its telemedicine network to regions like Ladakh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, northeastern states and tribal districts of states like Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.



International News



18,500 evacuated to defuse WWII bomb in Germany



Germany: A German bomb disposal team on Sunday successfully defused an unexploded World War II bomb that had forced the evacuation of 18,500 people in the city of Ludwigshafen. The 500-kg aerial bomb, thought to have been dropped by American forces, was discovered during construction work earlier in the week. “Good news: the bomb has been defused! Citizens may return to their homes,” the city of Ludwigshafen said on its Twitter feed.



Several killed in shooting at US video game event



Florida: Several people were killed in a mass shooting at a video game tournament in the northern Florida city of Jacksonville, local police said on Sunday, adding that one suspect was dead. “Multiple fatalities at the scene, many transported (to hospital),” the Jacksonville sheriff ’s office tweeted, adding it was unclear if there was a second possible gunman. The Miami Herald newspaper said the shooting happened at a video game tournament and counted four dead and 11 wounded. In subsequent tweets, police said they were still searching The Landing entertainment and shopping complex, where the Madden 19 tournament was being held.

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