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April 15, 2001 - April 15, 2001

Mahi river water turns saline Sunday, April 15, 2001

VADODARA: The sudden backward flow of water from the Gulf of Khambhat into the Mahi river has turned the river water salty in addition to polluting it. The recent climatic changes, that had led to a storm developing over the Gulf of Khambhat, had also led to the backward flow of water into Mahi river.

The Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), an environment body working here, said in addition to the water being salty, it also contained a high percentage of dissolved solids, indicating presence of effluents from the Effluent Channel Project (ECP).

As a result of this contamination, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has been forced to shut down the Fazalpur French wells. Mayor Bharati Vyas, who visited the Mahi site on Thursday, said, "We have made alternative arrangements so that there would be no water shortage in the city." However, she added that without testing, it would be difficult to say whether the water was polluted.

The PSS tested a sample of the Mahi water drawn from a French well in its TDS (total dissolved solids) meter, which is used to test water contents. "The test revealed a high percentage of solids, which indicates that it contains industrial pollutants," says Rohit Prajapati of the PSS.

He said, "The TDS of the water sample collected from the house of Jagdish Patel in Nizampura reveals that there was 1800 to 2200 TDS. This water comes from the French well in Mahi.

Normal TDS is 250 to 300, and in extreme water shortage conditions could go up to 500 TDS. During crisis 2000 TDS water can be consumed but only for a short term. In the long run, high-content TDS water can lead to health problems," he said.

Prajapati said since the MS University's faculty of technology would remain closed for two more days, testing of Mahi water and its metal content would have to be deferred till Monday.

He said the PSS has received complaints from villages in and around Mahi that the water was not normal and that they had difficulty in cooking and drinking. Farmers in the areas too are concerned about the salty water.

According to him though the storm might have caused the reverse flow of water, the greenhouse effect too could have led this occurrence. "The sea water that flows in contains ECP effluent discharge collected from 170 industrial units in a 56-km stretch near Jambusar in Sarod village. The ECP discharges its water too close to the sea shore, and, therefore, during high tides the water seeps in, leading to pollution of groundwater," he said.

He says the French wells have added to pollution of groundwater. Due to the large amount of water drawn from the river, cavities or vacuums are created. These cavities quickly absorb small quantities of water. The polluted and salty water would be immediately absorbed into the riverbed and groundwater in all the areas would be polluted further, says Prajapati.

According to him such reverse flows indicate that the ECP should not discharge wastes too close to the shore as it brings back the polluted water into the mainland and adds to groundwater pollution.

Meanwhile, the 42 villagers in these areas surrounded by the GSFC, IPCL, IOC, GACL, Heavy Water Project, etc., say their groundwater is already polluted, and in some places not fit for even bathing.

Prajapati said the Kadana and Wanakbori dams add to the pollution. The river flow into the area near Vasad has reduced due to the dams. The reduced quantity of water and the over drawing of water has led to an increase in salinity.

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Mahi river water turns saline Sunday, April 15, 2001

VADODARA: The sudden backward flow of water from the Gulf of Khambhat into the Mahi river has turned the river water salty in addition to polluting it. The recent climatic changes, that had led to a storm developing over the Gulf of Khambhat, had also led to the backward flow of water into Mahi river.

The Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), an environment body working here, said in addition to the water being salty, it also contained a high percentage of dissolved solids, indicating presence of effluents from the Effluent Channel Project (ECP).

As a result of this contamination, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has been forced to shut down the Fazalpur French wells. Mayor Bharati Vyas, who visited the Mahi site on Thursday, said, "We have made alternative arrangements so that there would be no water shortage in the city." However, she added that without testing, it would be difficult to say whether the water was polluted.

The PSS tested a sample of the Mahi water drawn from a French well in its TDS (total dissolved solids) meter, which is used to test water contents. "The test revealed a high percentage of solids, which indicates that it contains industrial pollutants," says Rohit Prajapati of the PSS.

He said, "The TDS of the water sample collected from the house of Jagdish Patel in Nizampura reveals that there was 1800 to 2200 TDS. This water comes from the French well in Mahi.

Normal TDS is 250 to 300, and in extreme water shortage conditions could go up to 500 TDS. During crisis 2000 TDS water can be consumed but only for a short term. In the long run, high-content TDS water can lead to health problems," he said.

Prajapati said since the MS University's faculty of technology would remain closed for two more days, testing of Mahi water and its metal content would have to be deferred till Monday.

He said the PSS has received complaints from villages in and around Mahi that the water was not normal and that they had difficulty in cooking and drinking. Farmers in the areas too are concerned about the salty water.

According to him though the storm might have caused the reverse flow of water, the greenhouse effect too could have led this occurrence. "The sea water that flows in contains ECP effluent discharge collected from 170 industrial units in a 56-km stretch near Jambusar in Sarod village. The ECP discharges its water too close to the sea shore, and, therefore, during high tides the water seeps in, leading to pollution of groundwater," he said.

He says the French wells have added to pollution of groundwater. Due to the large amount of water drawn from the river, cavities or vacuums are created. These cavities quickly absorb small quantities of water. The polluted and salty water would be immediately absorbed into the riverbed and groundwater in all the areas would be polluted further, says Prajapati.

According to him such reverse flows indicate that the ECP should not discharge wastes too close to the shore as it brings back the polluted water into the mainland and adds to groundwater pollution.

Meanwhile, the 42 villagers in these areas surrounded by the GSFC, IPCL, IOC, GACL, Heavy Water Project, etc., say their groundwater is already polluted, and in some places not fit for even bathing.

Prajapati said the Kadana and Wanakbori dams add to the pollution. The river flow into the area near Vasad has reduced due to the dams. The reduced quantity of water and the over drawing of water has led to an increase in salinity.

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Gas-based power project coming up at Hazira Sunday, April 15, 2001

SURAT: A gas-based power project of 156 mw at an estimated cost of Rs 576 crore is being set up near Mora at Hazira by the Gujarat State Energy Generation Ltd (GSEG). The project is being promoted by the state government company, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC).

The company has decided to set up the power project in view of the availability of natural gas from GSPC wells in the Hazira area. It is likely to be fully commissioned by February, 2002, managing director Sanjay Gupta said.

The project is to be funded by GSPC and other government sector entities such as the GEB, GPCL, GIPCL and GIIC, along with Kribhco, O&M Contractor on 70:30 debt-equity ratio respectively, Gupta said.

All the statutory clearances like Gujarat Pollution Control Board and the Central Electricity Authority for the development of the project have been obtained.

Gupta said the contracts for engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning have been awarded to Alstom Power Switzerland and Alstom Power India through international competitive bidding, while the operation and maintenance contracts have been given to Steag Encotec. The company has a power purchase agreement with the GEB.

Detailing the status of the project, Gupta said the major design and engineering part of the scheme have been finalised, and all major equipment required had been ordered and are being delivered in phases.

General manager S N Roy said the gas turbines, generators, auxiliary skids for turbines, cranes, air intake filters are some of the major equipment which had already arrived at the site. The erection of gas turbines was in progress, he said.

The major strengths of the project are based on gas as fuel, proximity of the project to fuel source and low gestation period resulting in low capital cost, Roy explained.

The synchronisation of first gas turbine is expected to be by August this year, while the second turbine would be synchronised by November. Accordingly, the combined cycle of commissioning of these turbines would be by early next year, Gupta said.

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Crash survivors disagree with IAF report Sunday, April 15, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Five months after the crash of the Indian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter in Kutch which killed seven of the 12 persons on board, survivors believe that the cause of the crash was enemy action and not "human or technical error", as concluded by the IAF.

Even after the investigations, controversy still shrouds the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter which fell near the Harami Nala 15 kms off the international border in the Indian territory of Kutch killing seven out of the 12 IAF and BSF personnel on board the chopper on November 12, 2000.

Interestingly, while the Court of Inquiry by the IAF on the crash - which concluded in January - attributes the crash to "air crew co-ordination error" , BSF survivors are not ready to accept this. They still believe it was enemy action that caused the crash.

The two survivors - deputy commandant Swaran Singh and inspector Prem Singh who were being treated at the Civil Hospital here - claim that the "helicopter was shot down".

The Mi-8 had taken off from Koteshwar on that fateful day around 12.30 pm on a reconnaissance mission, to return to Nalia on a specific route, with four IAF and eight BSF personnel on board. But it never returned. Twenty-six hours after the crash at 1.30 pm, a rescue mission reached the site of the crash, only to find five survivors.

Departmental inquiries were conducted on the accident, by the IAF and the BSF and their conclusions forwarded to the home ministry and the defence ministry, but some of the next of kin of those dead are yet to get the ex-gratia compensations, say sources. More upsetting for the survivors is that the outcome of the inquiry is not likely to earn the survivors or those killed any gallantry decorations.

An official spokesman from the IAF headquarters in Delhi told TOI, "There is no provision for ex-gratia payment to the survivors".

Both Swaran Singh and Prem Singh of the BSF claim that the crash could have only been caused by an explosive since it happened just a kilometre away from the place where the chopper spotted the 'fishing boats'.

But the Court of Inquiry set up to investigate the accident, the IAF spokesman said "has established scientifically, beyond doubt, that there was no hostile action against the helicopter".

Recounts Swaran Singh, "We saw five boats, camouflaged, which did not move even when the chopper lowered down to 100-150 feet. We had information that Pakistan was conducting exercises along the border and hence had restricted civilian movement in that area. So where was the question of fishing boats?" "And why did the crash happen there and not elsewhere?", he argues.

Swaran Singh says, "I'm sure the action was to avenge the shooting down of 'Atlantique' in August". He believes that the boats looked "professionally camouflaged and firmly anchored".

Swaran Singh is an intelligence officer based in Bhuj He is sore about the fact that there was no help for 26 hours after the chopper crashed, after making its last contact with the Guneri checkpost.

Inspector Prem Singh (57) too is upset about the "insistence on proving the crash as having been caused by mechanical failure". Prem Singh was at the tail-end of the chopper and claims to have heard a bang. He argues, "If it was an engine failure there would have been a warning at least". But what he is most peeved about is that except for Union home minister LK Advani, neither Prime Minister Vajpayee nor Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel bothered to visit them . "They came here to look at the earthquake victims, but did not come to see us," Prem Singh laments.

When contacted, BSF Inspector-General (Rajasthan and Gujarat) Bakshish Singh told TOI, "Initially we did think of a possibility of enemy action since the facts were not known. But now it has been concluded that it was due to technical failure."

The IG, who saw the inquiry through, said that the next of kin of those dead will get ex-gratia compensations. "If they had died due to enemy action, there may have been gallantry awards."

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MSU ignores report on Vyas case Sunday, April 15, 2001

VADODARA: MS University seems to be 'ignoring' the larger message in the 21-page inquiry committee report in Vyas case.

Vyas, abetted by a section of administrators and teachers, seems to have been made a scapegoat to gloss over the greater fraud eating into MSU's vitals.

University observers lament the fact that instead of introspecting and focusing on the rot in the system, MSU administration is bent on a face-saving exercise.

Even as the inquiry committee has made grave remarks on 'severe lapses in MSU administration', vice-chancellor Anil Kane maintained a defiant posture.

"How can one expect the administration to ask for verification of documents submitted by applicants. There are so many of them and it is not feasible to verify all things that they submit". Kane went on to add, "The officer they are holding responsible for being sympathetic is consistently lenient with all applicants. There was no partisan attitude".

Officially the varsity administration still holds that there was no violation of University Grants Commission Career Advancement Scheme norms for promoting teachers. The inquiry committee findings, on the other hand, states that 'MSU administration should be held accountable for the error'.

The report while prescribing exemplary deterrent punishment for Vyas has recommended review of two appointments - V G Vyas and A R Hingorani. Both of these appointments were made under CAS.

"It is rightly mentioned that Vyas's case is just the tip of the iceberg. We had repeatedly brought this to the notice of the administration but they did not take it seriously", says syndicate member I I Pandya.

Pandya had claimed and furnished details of 18 cases were UGC norms were flouted while making appointments/promotions. Most of these cases concerned with lapses in the system.

Another syndicate member Jung Bahadur Rajput too had submitted a list alleging wrongdoing on part of the previous university administration.

While Pandya and Rajput and the groups that back them may be at loggerheads, both had harped on 'lapses in system'.

"If varsity punishes Vyas only and does not reprimand those who abetted him, be it teachers or administrators, it would be injustice", observers a senior professor and former MSU administrator.

The inquiry committee too has made a similar observation. There is a series of comments that bear testimony to this. Sample this comments made by the inquiry committee. 'The case under investigation (M R Vyas case) appears to be a tip of the ice berg'. The case of M R Vyas cannot be said to have operationalised in vacuum'. 'In spite of witnessing a lot of hue and cry from the responsible persons even after resolution of the syndicate, no effective steps were taken seriously. This gives reasons to the committee to believe that a responsible senior officer having authority wanted to wink at bona vacantina'.

'University administration was over-confident about M R Vyas case and hence the issue was passed without ensuring his eligibility and the authenticity of the acceptance letters of his articles'. 'There is a sever lapse on the part of a university officer ... university administration's mechanical and casual approach ... irresponsible management, misjudgement, negligent attitude ...'

"Even now if the varsity does not rectify itself MSU's image will be sullied", said the senior professor.

As the next syndicate prepares to discuss Vyas case many on MSU campus ponder - Vyas has been punished but will those that made an MR Vyas possible be rebuked. The answer will reveal true colours of MSU.

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