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April 5, 2001 - April 5, 2001

Khedut leaders angry with CM Thursday, April 5, 2001

VADODARA: Leaders of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj are angry with the state's "khedut putra"-Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel. They feel let down by him for not backing their demand for payment of electricity bills at old rates as they have been hit by droughts and the January 26 earthquake.

Khedut Samaj president Bipin Desai said though there was a lot of expectation from the chief minister who calls himself close to farmers, he has not even replied to our letter seeking concession.

Now it seems the Khedut Samaj is on a collision course with the Gujarat government and the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB). This became clear after a huge rally of farmers taken out in front of the GEB office here on Saturday.

Speakers at the rally urged the Samaj leaders to support their call for refraining from paying electricity bills to the GEB from Saturday instead of waiting till July 1 as announced by the Samaj.

The rally was addressed by Shetkari Sangthan leader and chairman of the Central government-appointed task force on agriculture Sharad Joshi who supported the call.

The rally adopted resolutions calling farmers to gherao MLAs for their failure to support their demands. Three Congress MLAs, Siddharth Patel, Mohansinh Rathwa and Chandubhai Dabhi, who were present in the rally, pledged support to farmers.

Members of the Khedut Samaj are also getting ready for launching agitation on the issue of introduction of metered power supply to the farm sector and steep hike in tariff.

Resolutions adopted at the rally opposed the introduction of metered power supply and asked the members not to allow the GEB staff to enter their villages for the purpose of meter reading and getting their consent letters.

Khedut Samaj general secretary Vipin Patel said agitation would be launched against the GEB's failure to supply assured hours of power to the farm sector.

They will also protest against 480 per cent hike in power tariff proposed for the farm sector in the order of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission.

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Panel picks loopholes in pollution control Thursday, April 5, 2001

VADODARA: The Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), an environment protection body, has pointed out inherent loopholes in almost all hazardous waste disposal facilities such as landfill common effluent treatment plants, CEPTs, effluent channel project and incinerators.

"These are commonly used in Gujarat but are not providing environmentally safe solutions to the present ecological crisis," it says. Rohit Prajapati of the PSS says industries and government want to avoid the real problem and often misuse pollution control measures.

The CEPTs claim to treat the combined effluent from numerous industries simultaneously. The effluent usually arrives to the treatment plant via tankers or pipelines. The treatment is designed to fix simple parameters such as PH, BOD, COD and TDS but it neither mitigates nor monitors the real poison such as heavy metals and organic chemicals.

Heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury are common in industrial effluent and can be toxic to human health and aquatic life. The same is true for persistent organic pollutants which are commonly used in India. Despite this, the CEPTs do not have any legislation to address this problem.

"Often the waste stream is merely diluted with raw water and scientific standards are manipulated as they do not reflect a healthy system," says Prajapati. According to him, this water is discharged into rivers like Mahi in Vadodara and Damanganga near Vapi causing destruction of the aquatic eco systems.

Another problem with the CEPTs is that little pollutants are simply transferred into a solid form called sludge which is found to contain large quantities of pollutants.

He says incineration is also a dangerous "end of pipe" solution to the problem of hazardous solid waste. It is the main source of air pollution as burning waste emits toxic chemicals into the air. Simple plastics are a major source of dioxins and furans which are carcinogenic in nature.

The engineered landfills too are not safe as once the landfill ups are closed and an anaerobic environment is created, unknown chemical reactions might occur between the volatile and dangerous chemicals buried there. The US Environment Protection Agency has declared the landfill liners weak, he says.

Prajapati gives the examples of Nandesari industrial estate and petrochemical complex of Vadodara which have a 56 km effluent channel project carrying CEPT effluent into Mahi estuary. The open channel runs through 24 villages and is a major public health hazard. When the effluent leaves the treatment plant, it gets some hazardous solid materials which settle to the bottom. They are dumped in the open where they sometimes catch fire as happened last month, he says.

"The blaze lasted for eight hours and created flames that were 70 feet high. But no one can be blamed for this as it would be difficult to determine what caused the fire. Once an industry sends its waste to the CEPT, it is no more accountable," says Prajapati.

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board and other government agencies don't publicise the actual data concerning environmental monitoring, he adds.

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Panel for changes in waste disposal norms Thursday, April 5, 2001

VADODARA: The high power committee appointed at the behest of the Supreme Court of India to investigate the hazardous waste situation in India has called for a special amendment in the Hazardous Waste Rules that would make it mandatory for industries to follow clean, environmentally safe and energy-efficient technologies.

The committee, which is led by Dr M G K Menon, said that if such a statutory backing is provided then the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) would be able to force industries to initiate clean production techniques.

Menon has also advised that a special Clean Production Centre should be started in the country to assist and guide the industries in initiating these clean technologies.

In its report, the HPC has severely criticised the state Pollution Control Boards and chemical industries for not following the pollution control regulations. It has also noted that the hazardous waste situation in India is grim.

The report says that internationally there is a growing trend of moving away from landfill solutions to clean production. In India the erection of secured or engineered landfill facilities is in a preliminary stage and is located only in one state - Gujarat, however here too these are misused and there are a large number of illegal dumpsites.

The report has made several recommendations that aim to introduce clean technologies. The report says, "A clean production centre should be set up to assist and guide Indian industries on an environmentally sustainable path in the near and foreseeable future.

"No new industry should be permitted without a toxic input use reduction plan and an overall waste reduction plan."

According to the HPC, the government should take steps to ensure that expansion of existing hazardous waste generating industries and new industries of this nature follow the basic parameters of clean production.

"New industries must be subjected to stringent public disclosure rules regarding emissions, processes, raw materials and hazard potential, and mitigation scenarios. Such industries must prove that the processes used are the most energy-efficient and environmentally safe technologies when submitting their proposals for seeking consent to establish," it has said.

They must not be permitted to employ technologies or processes that intentionally or unintentionally generate endocrine disrupting chemicals or persistent organic pollutants. Nor should they be permitted to generate products whose final disposal would poison the environment with such chemicals or pollutants; in such cases, they must have a cradle to grave responsibility.

The report has made a special emphasis on developing a compact and cost-effective technologies for small scale authorised recycling units, with in-built pollution control systems.

The industries must not be permitted to employ technologies or processes that intentionally or unintentionally generate endocrine disrupting chemicals or persistent organic pollutants it has said.

The HPC has also noted that almost all SPCBs have been negligent and that the CPCB should be directed to generate a National Inventory of hazardous wastes as per the HW Rules, 1989/2000. The first inventory should be submitted to the Court by the 31st of December 2001 and the second by end December 2002.

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SMC enforces new construction rules Thursday, April 5, 2001

SURAT: All new constructions in the city will have to adhere to safety norms laid in the national building construction code, Surat Municipal Corporation officials have said.

In wake of large-scale devastation wreaked by the killer quake on January 26, emphasis would now be laid on new building plans having proper safeguards, right from testing the strength of the soil to its structural stability. In case of lapses or deviations, blame will rest on all parties involved, SMC officials have said.

The corporation is presently scrutinising over 100 applications for granting building permission. As per the new rules, submission of details of construction work at each stage by architect, structural engineer, builder as well as the land owner will be compulsory for periodic monitoring of the building under construction.

Besides, the corporation will have to be provided assurance with regard to the new structure being able to withstand natural calamities like earthquake, flood and cyclone. In addition, essential services like drainage, water supply, electricity and fire safety will have to be provided in the buildings, according to the SMC.

The corporation has asked the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) and the Surat Electricity Company (SEC) not to provide electricity connection to any buildings at the construction stage. Power connection is to be provided only when construction is complete and all safety provisions are adhered to.

The corporation is to complete inspection of newly constructed buildings within three weeks of submission of the completion certificate by the builder. If any fault is found during inspection, the same has to be rectified, failing which final permission will be withheld by the corporation.

Laminated copies of the building plan as submitted to the corporation would have to be given to all buyers as well as, a civic official said. The impact fee for regularisation of additional construction in the buildings is still in effect. The new rules will be applicable to constructions undertaken after March 27, said a SMC official.

The corporation plans to hold a series of workshops in the city to help engineers, builders, architects and others to acquaint themselves with the new construction rules.

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MSU move to install RSS men in VC panel stayed Thursday, April 5, 2001

VADODARA: Joint civil judge VK Pujara has issued an interim stay order directing the MS University authorities to restrain from nominating members for the search committee for appointment of the new vice-chancellor for the university.

The stay order follows a case filed by Narendra Tiwari, an MSU senate member, who said in his petition that efforts are being made to saffronise the university by nominating members who are pro-RSS and BJP.

The judge has issued the stay order till April 23 and has asked the university not to initiate further steps for appointment of the search committee.

Tiwari, who is also the Baroda Bar Association president, said that several anomalies were found in the procedure to select the search committee members. These clearly indicate the malafide intentions of the MSU authorities to install members in the committee who are pro-RSS.

As per the MSU rules, the search committee has to be appointed five months before September 6, 2001 when the term of current VC Anil Kane ends.

Tiwari presented before the court examples of illegal means that were resorted to select Madan Gopal Gupta, a pro-RSS man. In his petition, he mentioned that MSU vice-chancellor has illegally appointed members without taking into account the MSU rules. "As per rules, the three-member search committee has to be appointed in three phases, first by the syndicate, ten days later by the board of vice chancellors and ten days after this by the existing VC.

Despite this rule, several anomalies have been found since March 27 when a circular was issued (without the signature of the registrar) to call a meeting on April 2 which was a public holiday.

In the March 27 syndicate meeting, the vice-chancellor delayed hearing of item 25 wherein a name had to be selected for the search committee and later adjourned the meeting to April 2, a public holiday.

On April 2, three government-nominated senate members, who are normally not present in syndicate meetings, were called specially. The meeting was announced as a special one. However, no agenda was sent to the senate members.

Despite dissents from other syndicate members like Narendra Shukla, Cassim Unia, II Pandya, LM Joshi and Deshpande, the name of Madan Gopal Gupta was selected by a majority vote, said Tiwari.

Despite given names of illustrious personalities such as IG Patel, Amrita Patel, Kantak and Manu Shroff, Madan Gopal Gupta, former head of the department of Hindi, was selected. Gupta has faced several corruption charges in the past and an inquiry committee was also set up against him. Despite this record, his name was selected, said Tiwari in his petition.

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