News Flash – 5 December 2018

National News



By 2021, mobile app will send alerts if mangroves destroyed


Mumbai: Debris mafia and land encroachers may want to think twice before destroying mangroves as the state forest department’s mangrove cell is all set to get phone alerts through an app whenever miscreants damage any green cover. The app, to be developed by Indian Institute and Space Science and Technology (IIST)—a unit of Indian Space Research Organisation, will generate alerts even if a minor change is detected in the state’s mangroves cover. Even a 2sqm destruction or degradation of mangroves will be detected with the help of satellites. The IIST commenced work on the satellite-mapping project in April and is expected to complete it by 2021. In the meantime, IIST has already begun sharing satellite images with the mangrove cell. “We are using ground and satellite data to perfect a model for monitoring mangroves. The app, which will be developed in the later stages, will be provided to select officials. It will also receive complaints and mangrove destruction pictures sent by citizens,” said an official.


“Past baseline maps and imagery are being used. The satellite will monitor changes and every time a change is detected, if it is negative, an alert will be generated. The project will cost us Rs 70 lakh,” said the official. N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell, said that though the satellite monitoring is in sync with a high court order. they had started the process even before the ruling. An official of Mangrove Foundation, an organization that works with the government, said, “Mangroves’ health, species, density, etc. will also be part of the monitoring. IIST officials along with our teams have started a “ground-trothing” exercise for satellite monitoring in Vashi, Panvel, JNPT and Airoli. “We will see if we can extend the monitoring to creek water, if needed. At present, it is difficult to pinpoint locations where mangroves have died as they are not accessible by foot or even boats,” the official added.



A day after NGT’s Rs.25 crores fine, toxic fires still rage in Mundka

Industrial waste burns in the open in Mundka on Tuesday, a day after NGT fined the Delhi government for failing to curb such fires in the area.



New Delhi: A breath of fresh, clean air remains a dream for most Mundka residents, thanks to toxic industrial units burning their waste in the open. A day after the National Green Tribunal slapped a fine of Rs 25 crore on the Delhi government for doing precious little to address the problem, the situation in this rural-turned-industrial corner of west Delhi remained as grim as ever. TOI visited Mundka on Tuesday and found garbage burning in the area, with toxic fumes making breathing difficult and causing the eyes to sting. What stood out amid lush green fields were hillocks of industrial waste, many of which are lit up at night as a quick-fix solution to solid waste management. One such “hillock” lies just behind Mundka Metro station. You can find almost anything there. Sports shoe parts, plastic glasses, marble dust, toilet seat covers, cheese spread boxes you name it and it’s there at this impromptu dump site.



6-lane elevated road to bypass traffic chaos


New Delhi: In an effort to decongest the Ring Road stretch between Sarai Kale Khan and Dhaula Kuan that remains choked throughout the day, Delhi government’s public works department (PWD) has proposed a six-lane road, mostly elevated, from Mahipalpur Bypass (NH-8) to the Barapullah elevated road at East Kidwai Nagar. Once built, this will make the drive from Mahipalpur to Sarai Kale Khan and east Delhi seamless. The proposal for the 14km link that would pass through Nelson Mandela Road, Vivekanand Marg, Africa Avenue, Leela Palace roundabout and Sarojini Nagar is now before UTTIPEC—the apex body for approving transport and traffic projects. A source said this option had been found as the most favourable one to decongest the existing road networks along Ring Road, Outer Ring Road and Aurobindo Marg, and also to meet the expected traffic flow once all eight central government colonies are redeveloped. Its expected cost will be about Rs 2,000 crore. While National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) is redeveloping East Kidwai Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Nauroji Nagar and Netaji Nagar, Central Public Works Department has undertaken work for the other four colonies in south Delhi. After redevelopment, the government housing stock will increase to about 30,000 dwelling units and large commercial areas. The elevated stretch will have entry and exit ramps for all roads that will get traffic from these colonies (except Sriniwaspuri and Kasturba Nagar). PWD had engaged a consultant to prepare a report suggesting the solutions after studying the traffic flow and estimating the growth primarily due to the redevelopment.


A source said though the consultant suggested three options, the six-lane stretch is considered the best. The housing and urban affairs ministry has told the Delhi high court that no allotment would be made in seven colonies (barring East Kidwai Nagar where people have started staying) until the traffic improvement plan is put in place. As per the report, the road will take off from Mahipalpur Bypass where an underpass beneath NH-8 is being constructed by CPWD. It will traverse at grid along the bypass and then will go along Mehrauli-Mahipalpur Road to meet at Nelson Mandela Marg. From there, an elevated stretch will go up to Outer Ring Road near Munirka. Entry and exit ramps have been proposed along Nelson Mandela Road. The road will then pass through Vivekanand Marg to meet at Ring Road. Thereafter, it will take a further deviation to Africa Avenue and traverse as an elevated corridor over the Africa Avenue section up to Leela Palace Rotary. PWD has already planned the extension of Barapullah phase-IV close to the rotary. Ramps have been proposed at Africa Avenue for traffic going towards and coming from Sarai Kale Khan. The report says as the colonies at Nauroji Nagar, Sarojini Nagar and Kidwai Nagar will have their entry/exits only on to Ring Road, the traffic situation will worsen and need additional dispersal facilities. “We need to find options to disperse traffic rather than everyone coming on to the same road. Limited entry-exit points will improve the traffic flow,” said an urban transport planner.



Toxic air triggers spurt in breathing ailments


Kolkata: The spiraling pollution levels in Kolkata over the last three weeks have resulted in a sharp spurt in the number of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses. While the gradual temperature dip is a usual trigger at this time of the year, doctors have pointed out that the severity of the diseases have been much more this year which can be linked directly to the pollution rise. Number of COPD and asthma patients — the majority of whom are children and the elderly seeking admission in hospitals has skyrocketed to an unprecedented level since mid-November, according to some private hospitals. Belle Vue Clinic has eight COPD patients admitted which is higher than last year. Ruby General Hospital has 24 patients in the pulmonology department, including 16 severe cases, which is unprecedented. At Fortis Hospital, the number of respiratory illness patients had touched 40 in mid-November. Doctors pointed out that the spurt was triggered by the Diwali pollution and has since remained unchanged. “Post-Diwali, children have been streaming in with breathing problems, wheeze, cough and pneumonia. The main reason for this rise in incidence is air pollution. The sharp spurt in the number of patients suggests an increasingly strong evidence that air pollution is associated with increase in the risk of death and chronic disease in children, apart from worsening pregnancy outcomes and aggravating existing illnesses,” said Paediatrician and NICU in-charge at Fortis Hospital Sumita Saha.


“In addition, children spend more time outdoors where the concentrations of pollution from traffic, power plants and other combustion sources are generally higher. Air pollution, particularly traffic-related pollution and fireworks triggers asthma and atopy,” added Saha. While COPD is an irreversible narrowing of the airway passages, in asthma the narrowing can be reversed. The severity of the disease has indeed been rising every year and has reached an unprecedented level this time, said AMRI Hospital consultant Debashish Saha. “Vehicular pollution and fireworks could be the reasons. It is evident from the severity of COPD and asthma cases that pollutants like Sulphur-dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, silica and asbestos are substantially higher than ever before. While the immediate impact has been a rise in the number of COPD and asthma patients, in the long run these could cause lung cancer,” said Saha. Asthma and allergy due to pollution have reached an alarming level with almost one out of every four kids affected by these, claimed Paediatrician Santanu Ray. “Both the number of patients and the severity of the ailments have gone up. This is evident from the number of hospitalizations this year which is at least 40% higher,” said Ray. The situation could worsen as the month progresses, said Fortis Hospital consultant Angshuman Mukherjee. “As the temperature drops, the cases could get more severe. This year we had an early spurt in November. There is thankfully a lull now but we expect another surge,” he said.



Hospital to review safety plan after midnight fire

The fire started next to an ATM on the ground floor of the hospital.



Kolkata: A fire broke out at the Institute of Neurosciences Kolkata (INK) early on Tuesday, leading to a scare. Though the fire, which started next to a ground-floor ATM, was doused by three fire engines in half-an-hour, smoke spiraled up to the second floor of the hospital, said officials at INK. This floor houses more than 150 critical patients. While none was injured, the hospital has decided to spruce up its fire-fight mechanism, including installation of a flooding system to spot and douse flames. It was around 2.50am that the flames were spotted at the backup support battery chamber of the ATM on the east side of the building. The OPD section, the closest to the ATM, was affected even as smoke reached the first two floors of the hospital. The ATM glass door had to be broken so that the extinguishing hose could be inserted. Hardly any of the patients realized there was a fire. The fire team and the police are carrying out an inquiry to determine the cause. “Our firefighting system is in place but we will review it. We have ordered for a flooding system that will identify the source of a fire and douse it,” said a hospital official, adding the security staff acted quickly to tackle the fire. “The smoke did reach some of the upper floors but a mechanism prevented it from infiltrating the wards,” he added. Fire officials said the smoke spread up to the fourth floor and the hospital staff had to open the windows to let the smoke out. “Security staffers were posted on the upper floors to check the accumulation of smoke and ensure no patient was affected. None of them was evacuated,” said a fireman.



Gaja: 1 more week needed for full power restoration


Chennai: It’s more than 20 days since power supply snapped in the Cauvery delta districts battered by Cyclone Gaja. People in many of the affected areas are still waiting for resumption of power. Tangedco officials say it may take at least one more week for power supply to resume in some remote areas. As on Monday, there are many habitations in Tiruvonam, Peravurani and Orathanadu blocks in Thanjavur district, Thiruvarankulam and Gandarvakottai blocks in Pudukottai district, and Kuthalam and Vedaranyam blocks in Nagapattinam district without power. Supply has been restored in most other areas, said a Tangedco official. “We have restored power in all urban areas in Thanjavur district. The ones that are left out are the worst affected areas with maximum damage to electricity poles. It may take one more week to restore power in the balance areas as 37,000 more poles are to be replaced in Thanjavur district,” said the official. In all, the affected areas would end up spending one full month without power since cyclone Gaja hit the region.


In Pudukottai district, it would take another five days to restore power supply in left out areas, he said. “Workers have to carry the poles on shoulders for long distance across water-logged paddy fields in many parts of Pudukottai district. Erecting the poles in slush takes a lot of time,” said the official. “Working in water-logged fields for long hours, many Tangedco employees and contract workers have fallen ill. Some of those who have fallen ill are from other states. They are being treated. Those from other states return home after recovery. Work obviously gets delayed,” he said. In Vedaranyam block, more than 5,000 poles have been replaced in the last 2 days alone. “In this block, more than 27,000 poles were damaged and still we have to replace nearly 22,000 poles. It will take one more week for the entire block to get power,” the official said. In all, 2.17 lakh poles were damaged in the cyclone-hit regions. “With geographic information system (GIS) we are checking the habitations in which power has been restored and those that are yet to be covered,” said the official.



International News



Riots force France to suspend fuel-tax hikes

Students burn a barricade in front of their high school during a demonstration against education reforms in Bordeaux, France.



Paris: The French government’s decision to suspend fuel tax and utility price hikes on Tuesday did little to appease protesters, who called the move a “first step” and vowed to fight on after large-scale rioting in Paris last weekend. In a major U-turn for the government, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced in a live televised address that the planned increases set for January would be postponed until summer. The backpedaling by President Emmanuel Macron’s government appeared designed to calm the nation three days after the worst unrest on the streets of Paris in decades. “No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger,” Philippe said, just three weeks after insisting that the government wouldn’t change course in its determination to wean French consumers off polluting fossil fuels. But demonstrations continued around the country on Tuesday. Protesters wearing their signature fluorescent yellow vests kept blocking several fuel depots and, on a highway near the southern city of Aubagne, protesters took over a toll booth to let vehicles pass for free. They put up a sign by the side of the road reading “Macron dictator.” “It’s a first step, but we will not settle for a crumb,” said Benjamin Cauchy, a protest leader. In the nearby port city of Marseille, students clashed with police outside a high school.


Student protests blocked or otherwise disrupted about 100 high schools around the country blocked or otherwise disrupted by student protests Tuesday, according to the French education ministry. Many of the demonstrations were over a new university application system. More protests were expected this weekend in Paris. Last weekend, more than 130 people were injured and 412 arrested in the French capital. Shops were looted and cars torched in plush neighbourhoods around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. The Arc de Triomphe, which is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was visited by world leaders last month to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, was sprayed with graffiti and vandalized. “This violence must end,” Philippe said. Philippe held crisis talks with representatives of major political parties on Monday, and met with Macron, who cancelled a two-day trip to Serbia amid the most serious challenge to his presidency since his election in May 2017. On Tuesday, Philippe announced a freeze in electricity and natural gas prices until May 2019, and warned protesters against more disruptions. “If another day of protests takes place on Saturday, it should be authorized and should take place in calm,” he said. A soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier, scheduled for Saturday in Paris, was postponed after police said they couldn’t guarantee security there and at protests simultaneously.

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