News Flash – 9 November 2017

National News



BMC to fix nets under 1L manholes for pedestrian safety



MUMBAI: The BMC has finally decided to place hollow-shaped protective nets below one lakh-plus manholes in the city to avoid casualties in case a drain cover is left open on a flooded stretch. This move comes following the death of gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amarapurkar who fell into an open manhole at a flooded Senapati Bapat Marg in Elphinstone Road during the heavy downpour of August 29. Some locals had removed the manhole’s lid to allow water to drain out. The BMC has been considering various designs for protective nets that can be placed below manhole covers across the city. In a meeting with municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Wednesday, the civic body finally zeroed in on hollow net covers. Civic officials pointed out that there are more than one lakh sewerage and storm water drains in the city. “We have been asked to first focus on placing these protective nets on manholes in low-lying areas that get routinely flooded.


Considering that a large number of nets are to be fitted, the work will be taken up in phase wise manner and we plan to place at least significant number of these nets before the next monsoon,” said a civic official. The BMC will soon call for tenders for the purpose. Nikhil Desai, an activist from King’s Circle, welcomed the development but cautioned that these netted grills must be fixed and secured. “The situation in Mumbai is such that manhole covers are stolen. Therefore, it is important that the BMC fix these netted jaalisto ensure that no one steals them,” he said. The BMC inquiry report on Dr Deepak Amarapurkar’s death had recommended these netlike covers below the main manhole covers. In his remarks on the report, Mehta had emphasized that designs for protective nets must be finalized within a month.



As smog thickens, CM & LG declare air emergency in Delhi


NEW DELHI: As the toxic smog engulfing the capital worsened and Delhities suffered a second successive day of `severe’ air quality, lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal came together to declare an air emergency in the city and set in motion a series of urgent measures. Following up on the Delhi government’s decision earlier in the day to shut all schools till Sunday, orders were issued to stop entry of trucks into the city, except those carrying essential goods; halt all construction activity and raise parking fees four times. An estimated 1 lakh trucks enter the capital every day. These orders will kick in from Thursday , except for municipality-controlled parking lots which will implement the hike from Friday. A transport department official said a decision on odd-even traffic curbs will be taken on Thursday . If its need is felt, a notification will be issued on Friday. Meanwhile, Delhi’s air quality index plummeted further into the severe zone at 478, just 22 points below 500 where the AQI scale ends. An official said entry of trucks into Delhi will be barred from 11pm on Thursday, except for those carrying essential items. “Trucks that have been exempted are the same as those exempted from paying Environmental Compensation Charge (ECC) to avoid any confusion,” the official said. Trucks carrying essential items such as vegetables, fruit, milk, cereals etc. are exempt from paying ECC. “The direction is only for trucks. Light goods vehicles would be allowed,” the official added.


Earlier in the day , Delhi government’s directorate of education, on the direction of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, declared a holiday for students of all Delhi government, private, corporation and other recognised / un-recognised schools till Sunday . As per the circular, teachers will continue to work while students have been asked to stay at home. “The situation will be reviewed on Sunday,” Sisodia said. Noida too ordered all schools shut till Friday. Following orders, Delhi Metro has hiked its parking rates four times from Thursday in order to discourage use of private vehicles as a pollution control measure, a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson said. DMRC charges Rs 20 for parking of four-wheelers up to six hours, Rs 30 up to 12 hours and Rs 40 for parking beyond 12 hours. The rates for two-wheelers are Rs 10, 15 and 20 for the same time slots. The charges will now go up to Rs 80 for six hours for four-wheelers and Rs 40 for two-wheelers from Thursday. The civic bodies -the three municipal corporations, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Delhi Cantonment Board -have also been directed to hike parking charge by four times. Senior officials claim that the order will be implemented from Friday .The parking rate across the city ranges from Rs 20 (for first four hours) to Rs 200 (for 24 hours), increasing it by four times would make it a minimum of Rs 80 to maximum of Rs 800.


A decision on implementing the odd-even formula for vehicles will be taken in keeping with the Graded Action Plan that stipulates “severe” air quality conditions remains for more than 48 hours. As Delhi will enter third day of smog conditions, a review to decide on the odd-even scheme is expected on Thursday. “If the need is felt, a notification would be issued on Friday,” said a senior transport department official. Meanwhile, traffic Police has been asked to intensify traffic management in all hot spots and increase deployment of traffic police to avoid congestion. It has been decided that DTC and transport department will put more buses on roads and DMRC has been asked increase frequency of trains. There were a series of directions involving civic bodies. The corporations and PWD were asked to intensify mechanical road sweeping and sprinkling of water. The corporations have also been directed to stop the use of firewood and coal in hotels and eateries. The municipalities, DPCC and the industries department have been directed to enforce ban on use of pet coke and furnace oil. There will also be focus on enforcement of ban on use of generator sets with exceptions as defined by DPCC for essential services.


Orders were also issued for strict enforcement of the ban on open burning and penalties are to be imposed on road construction agencies and contractors not taking inadequate dust-control measures. Earlier in the day, Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot held a meeting with senior officials of the transport department, DMRC, DTC, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) and divisional commissioner on Wednesday regarding preparations for implementation of the odd-even road rationing scheme. Gahlot has asked DTC to float short term tenders to procure 500 buses to augment the corporation’s fleet of 3,944 buses. DMRC has also been asked to hire 300 buses and DIMTS has assured that it will provide 100 of its reserve buses, apart from operating its fleet of 1,612 buses. During the previous editions of odd-even scheme, 3,000 private buses were deployed under `Paryavaran Sewa’.”Most of those buses ran empty so it has been decided to arrange only 500 buses this time,” the official said.



Benz bailout: Rescue vehicle on Metro SOS



HYDERABAD: God forbid if a Metro train should ever derail, the Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) is armed with a state-of-the art rescue facility to enable it to respond quickly to any such eventually. HMRL has procured a state-of-the-art rescue vehicle manufactured by Mercedes Benz – the Benz Unimog. The diesel powered Benz Unimog, which has been imported from Germany, can be driven both on the tracks and as well as on the road and is meant for use in cases of emergency. The truck, which runs on diesel, is equipped with special devices for re-railing of train coaches. According to HMRL managing director NVS Reddy , the vehicle can move at a speed of 89 kmph on road and 50 kmph on rail. It weighs 12 tonnes and costs around ‘3 crores. Though the vehicle will be stationed at the Uppal depot of the Hyderabad Metro, it will be moved to the accident site in case of a derailment or any emergency. The Bengaluru Metro Rail authorities had shipped in a Benz Unimog earlier to take care of emergencies. According to Hyderabad Metro Rail authorities, the vehicle can be used on the main lines as well as in the depot. It can be used for rescue purpose in case of accidents, collapse of structures or blockage of access to structures.


Apart from the Benz Unimog, HMRL also procured vehicles like diesel shunter and catenary maintenance vehicle. “The diesel shunter is a road-cum-rail vehicle used to shunt the rolling stock within the depot and the viaduct. This is the first of its kind shunter to be used in Indian Metro Rail operation. The made in Italy vehicle has a capacity to pull six train cars at the ramp and viaduct at a speed of 15kmph on road and 25kmph on rail with no engine load,” said NVS Reddy. The catenary maintenance vehicle will be used for maintenance of 25 KV overhead electric traction system and also for laying cables on the viaduct as well as carrying heavy equipment. The Hyderabad Metro Rail authorities have also installed an automatic train wash plant, which has been imported from the UK, at the Uppal Depot. The drive-through plant has been set up to clean exteriors of the trains as they are taken off service and returned to the depot for stabling. Equipped with intelligent sensors called photo sensors, the train wash facility can wash six trains per hour.



141 buildings unsafe in Royapuram zone: Corporation



Chennai: Greater Chennai Corporation on Wednesday announced that it had identified 141 buildings in Royapuram (Zone 5) as unfit for occupation and had issued demolition notices to the property owners. The corporation responded to TOI’s story on old structures posing a threat to public, published in the November 8 edition. Officials said only eight building owners had demolished their buildings following the notices. “In the remaining buildings, legal dispute between tenant and building owners are delaying demolition proceedings. So, we have placed a warning board declaring the building unsafe and marked its impact zone, in case of collapse,” a corporation official said. The topic came up for discussion during the northeast monsoon review meeting conducted by Atulya Mishra, principal secretary, industries department. Mishra is the team leader supervising the city corporation’s north east monsoon activities. According to officials, Mishra will present a compilation of the feedback received from zonal officers during the meeting, to the chief secretary on Thursday. “He (Mishra) sought to know long term solutions to the problems that we encountered during this monsoon,” said an official.



International News



Saudi Arabia says Lebanon declares war, deepening crisis



BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia accused Lebanon on Monday of declaring war against it because of aggression by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, a dramatic escalation of a crisis threatening to estabilise the tiny Arab country. Lebanon has been thrust to the centre of regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran since the Saudi-allied Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Saturday, blaming Iran and Hezbollah in his resignation speech. Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as a government declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he described as aggression by Hezbollah. Faulting the Hariri-led administration for failing to take action against Hezbollah during a year in office, Sabhan said “there are those who will stop (Hezbollah) and make it return to the caves of South Lebanon”, the heartland of the Shi’ite community. In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he added: “Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return”.  He did not spell out what action Saudi Arabia might take against Lebanon, a country with a weak and heavily indebted state that is still rebuilding from its 1975-90 civil war and where one-in-four people is a Syrian refugee. There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese government. Hezbollah is both a military and a political organisation that is represented in the Lebanese parliament and in the Hariri-led coalition government formed last year. Its powerful guerrilla army is widely seen as stronger than the Lebanese army, and has played a major role in the war in neighbouring Syria, another theatre of Saudi-Iranian rivalry where Hezbollah has fought in support of the government. Lebanese authorities said on Monday the country’s financial institutions could cope with Hariri’s resignation and the stability of the Lebanese pound was not at risk. But the cash price of Lebanon’s U.S. dollar-denominated bonds fell, with longer-dated maturities suffering hefty losses as investors took a dim view of the medium- to longer-term outlook for Lebanon.


HARIRI FREE TO TRAVEL, SAUDI FM SAYS: Hariri cited a plot to assassinate him during his unexpected resignation speech broadcast from Saudi Arabia which caught even his aides off guard. He also slammed Hezbollah and Iran, accusing them of sowing strife in the Arab world. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said he will not comment on Hariri’s speech, calling it a “Saudi statement” and saying Riyadh had forced Hariri to resign. The sudden nature of Hariri’s resignation generated speculation in Lebanon that his family’s Saudi construction business had been caught up in an anti-corruption purge and he had been coerced into resigning. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said it was “nonsense” to suggest Hariri had been coerced into quitting in a CNN interview on Monday. Hariri had quit because Hezbollah had been “calling the shots” in the government, he said. Hariri, a Saudi citizen, was free to leave the country at any time, he said. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, a senior member of Hariri’s political party, said he was under the impression Hariri would return to Beirut within days. A meeting between Saudi King Salman and Hariri in Riyadh on Monday proved “rumours” wrong, he said – an apparent reference to speculation that Hariri was detained or forced to quit.


Earlier on Monday, President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, appealed for national unity. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, another political ally of Hezbollah, said in a televised statement after meeting Aoun it was too early to talk about forming a new government. The crisis could re-aggravate tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and afflict Lebanese government with paralysis once again. All of the sides have called for calm and there has been no sign of unrest since Hariri’s resignation. The Hariri-led government took office last year in a political deal that made Aoun president. The deal ended years of deadlock, and last month it produced Lebanon’s first budget since 2005. Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday after meeting in Beirut the top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, who described the coalition as “a victory” and “great success” afterwards.

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