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Thursday, July 30, 2009

RBI issues alert on lottery scams

Mumbai: The RBI has warned the public of a lottery scam doing the rounds, which fraudulently invokes the central banks authority, besides the promise of windfall gains, to lure people into parting with big amounts of money. 
According to RBI, the new scheme names an individual as the winner of a lottery running into millions of dollars kept with the banking regulator . The catch: The winner has to transfer some money into a bank account to take care of administrative and other expenses for the winner. In an attempt to give the game an authentic look, the fraudsters are faking RBI certificates, complete with the name, designation and signature of some of central banks officers. 
On Thursday, RBI warned the public that it does not maintain any account in the name of individuals, companies , or trusts in India to hold funds for disbursal. It also does not allow individuals to open an account to deposit money with the RBI. Neither does it issue any certificates, advice or confirmation, evidencing receipt and holding of money in such accounts. 
The modus operandi: One gets an email saying he/she is the winner of a lottery and the amount is kept in an account with the RBI. The email also has an attachment of a certificate from the RBI. 
The email also gives a mobile number on which the lottery winner could call to claim the jackpot. Once the recipient of the mail makes the verification call, the voice on the other side, which is claimed to be of an RBI officer, informs the caller about the next step. This usually involves transferring a few lakhs of rupees to a particular bank account. 
Within days, however, the mobile phone goes silent and the money is withdrawn. 
RBI has received several complaints and it is currently working with the police to track down the fraudsters, a top RBI official said. The economic offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police is currently dealing with four similar cases while many more cases are there at the police station level , said Sanjay Saxena, additional CP (EOW). 
RBI has warned people that remittance in any form towards participation in lottery schemes is prohibited under the Foreign Exchange Management Act . Further, these restrictions are applicable also to remittances for participation in lottery-like schemes functioning under different names, such as, money circulation scheme or remittances for the purpose of securing prize money, awards, etc, it said on its website. 
RBI now has a ticker on its website (www.rbi.org.in), warning people in 13 languages about this fraud.

 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fast & furious: H1N1 to hit 2bn in 2 yr

PANDEMIC STARING AT THE FACE

Virus Claims 800 Lives In Last Four Months: WHO

New Delhi: Two billion—that's the number of people that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated will get infected with the deadly H1N1 flu virus in the next two years. Earlier pandemics have infected onethird of the world's population. But this virus is especially dangerous.
    Why? Because it is brand new, that nobody has seen before. The threat is clear from the way the virus has spread till now. Over 160 countries have already confirmed over 1,30,000 cases, with the virus spreading as much in less than six weeks as past pandemic flu viruses spread in more than six months. WHO has already designated this as the "planet's fastest-moving pandemic". In most
countries, those mostly infected belong to the age group of 12 to 17 years. Almost 800 people have died from it in the past four months—more than what the H5N1 bird flu strain has killed in six years.
    India is now worried and says it's just a matter of time before the country starts to see large scale community clusters of the virus. According
to Dr Randeep Guleria, professor of medicine at the AIIMS, weather conditions like the end of monsoon and the winter months will be perfect for the H1N1 virus to thrive. "The current strain of H1N1 has high transmissibility rate which the H5N1 bird flu virus did not. Overcrowding in India will see the virus spread very fast in the community in the post-monsoon months. And since it is a new virus, there is no herd immunity against it," Dr Guleria said. An estimate says that 3-5 million people will be required to be vaccinated soon after the fullfledged pandemic hits India. Health officials in India are trying to determine which groups are most likely to get severely ill so measures can be taken. A meeting is scheduled next week to finalise the priority list.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Volunteer search and rescue team is the highlight of FOCUS eve


FOCUS provides emergency relief to communities suffering from natural disasters or man-made crises. Photo: Samir Bharwani
FOCUS provides emergency relief to communities suffering from natural disasters or man-made crises. Photo: Samir Bharwani

In May, Focus Humanitarian Assistance celebrated its 15th anniversary with An Evening with Focus, held at the Ismaili Centre, London. The event created awareness of the integral role that FOCUS and its volunteers play in communities around the world.

An affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, FOCUS aims to foster disaster-resilience in communities that are particularly vulnerable to natural and man-made disaster. It also extends humanitarian relief and recovery in the wake of disasters.

Approximately 250 people attended the event, and 180 people, from 18 different countries, watched it live over the internet. The evening included four presentations, each portraying a unique aspect of FOCUS' work.

Members of the SART team address the audience. Photo: Abdul Khakoo
Members of the SART team address the audience. Photo: Abdul Khakoo

The Executive Officer of FOCUS in Tajikistan, Mustafa Karim, demonstrated how the work of FOCUS and its volunteers has benefited tens of thousands residing in the isolated mountainous areas of Central Asia. FOCUS has enhanced capacity in the areas of awareness, preparedness and disaster risk reduction, and has disseminated crucial knowledge and skills to local communities to reduce their vulnerabilities.

Illustrating the importance of professional volunteers, Dr Salim Sumar, the Executive Officer of FOCUS Europe, talked about the work of the European unit's Search and Rescue Team (SART).

Consisting of eight members who have been training since July 2007, SART is able to respond rapidly and effectively in the event of a natural or man-made disaster anywhere in the world. Each team member volunteers their time for training and future deployments.

Some of the specialist equipment that the SART team is trained to use in their operations. Photo: Samir Bharwani
Some of the specialist equipment that the SART team is trained to use in their operations. Photo: Samir Bharwani

The SART members' presentation was the highlight of the evening. During the past two years, the team was trained by RAPID UK (Rescue and Preparedness In Disasters). An NGO accredited by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group of the United Nations, RAPID UK is also part of the British government's Department for International Development Response team.

FOCUS SART underwent intensive training for one weekend every month for 24 months. Their training incorporated a range of real-life disaster conditions such as cold and wet weather, operating with minimal amounts of food and sleep, working at heights as well as in confined spaces. The group was trained to support each other, to cope with high levels of stress and to use highly specialised technical equipment. They are prepared to respond globally to riots and civil unrest, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, and other natural or man-made disasters.

In addition to search and rescue procedures, the group has been trained to react in dangerous and hostile environments. They learnt about base camp procedures, communications, logistics, first aid and undertook specialist courses such as swift water rescue. Most importantly, the SART is able to support and complement other international search and rescue teams, and assist in training teams globally.

The SART team is joined by the Chairman of the FOCUS International Coordinating Committee as well as the Chairman, Executive Officer and a Programme Officer from FOCUS Europe. Photo: Samir Bharwani
The SART team is joined by the Chairman of the FOCUS International Coordinating Committee as well as the Chairman, Executive Officer and a Programme Officer from FOCUS Europe. Photo: Samir Bharwani

The SART's final assessment took place over five days in June and they were evaluated on their performance under a variety of realistic simulations. The team is now fully operational and is highly trained and equipped to support countries affected by disasters globally. The European SART and the SART established by FOCUS Pakistan can now serve communities world-wide in the event of a disaster.

Members from RAPID UK were also present at An Evening with Focus in order to show their support for the SART. After the presentations, SART and RAPID UK demonstrated how to use some of their specialist equipment such as a thermal imaging camera; a vibraphone; and snake high camera.

The evening concluded with a brief presentation by Aziz Bhaloo, Chairman of the Focus International Coordinating Committee, who spoke on FOCUS' past, present and future endeavours.


Readers wishing to support FOCUS' work, are invited to apply for the next FOCUS Hike4Life, which will take place from 25 December 2009 – 3 January 2010 in Uganda. For more details, please visit www.focuschallenge.org.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A NEW THREAT ON THE WATER FRONT?

SAVED BY THE RAIN GODS
Mumbaikars who were keeping their fingers crossed fearing another deluge were left pleasantly surprised on Thursday. Despite the high tide levels reaching a towering 5.01 metres at 1.23 pm, the relatively lower rainfall saved the city from going under. The island city got 16.8mm of rain, the eastern suburbs 34.1mm, and the western suburbs 3.3mm of rainfall
ANGRY AS THE SEA
Many low-lying areas, however, were submerged by the sea, and more than a 100 families along the coast in Worli, Versova, Malabar Hill and Cuffe Parade were evacuated to nearby municipal schools. The wall of a home in a chawl in Worli Koliwada caved in. Part of the wall of the mayor's bungalow in Dadar, which abuts the Arabian Sea, also collapsed
WATER'S THE GOOD NEWS
After an alarming dry spell and a delayed start to the monsoon, the city's lakes are finally beginning to swell. For the first time on Thursday, the total water content from all six lakes crossed last year's mark: It was recorded at 4.70 lakh million litres compared to 4.46 lakh million litres on July 23 last year. Modak Sagar began overflowing from midnight on Thursday. P 2 
FORECAST FOR TODAY The Met department has forecast a spell of heavy rain in the next 48 hours, but added that there won't be any "exceptionally heavy rainfall''. The city is bracing itself for high tides reaching the 5.05m mark on Friday. Top BMC officials have been put on a high alert
TIDE WATCH FRIDAY | 5.05 metres at 2.03 pm SATURDAY | 4.94 metres at 2.43 pm
SCHOOL HOLIDAY?
A few schools like Bai Avabai Petit have announced a holiday today. Some will close early at noon while others may follow a wait-and-watch policy

STOPPED AT THE GATEWAY: High-spirited youngsters brave the waves near the Taj on Thursday

 


 






Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chaos relief rain down on Mumbai

Rail Traffic Severely Disrupted, Roads Flooded, Mithi Crosses Danger Mark, But Water Stocks Improve In Catchments

Mumbai: Life in Mumbai was thrown out of gear on Tuesday during the wettest day the city experienced so far this monsoon. The incessant showers, which caused road, rail and flight disruptions, actually began on Monday night. On Tuesday (8.30am to 8.30pm), the Met department reported 44.1 mm of rain in Colaba and 166 mm in Santa Cruz.
    The eastern suburbs were the hardest hit, with the BMC reporting 104mm of rain there on Tuesday from 8.30am till 3.30pm. Since 8.30 pm Monday, the figure was 296 mm. The western suburbs and island city had 66 mm and 31 mm respectively on Tuesday, and 177 mm and 184 mm since Monday night.

    Though civic officials had earlier claimed that the city was ready to tackle rain of up to 350 mm at nonhigh-tide times, Tuesday's downpour flooded several areas and caused severe traffic jams. Central Railway, which serves the eastern suburbs, saw its main and harbour lines brought to a standstill for around three hours. A commuter who caught a train at Sion at 3.30 pm to reach Badlapur was still stuck at Thane at 9.30 pm.
    While there were traffic snarls, Mumbaikars also waded through waist-deep waters. Low-lying areas like King's Circle, Sion, Milan Subway, Linking Road and S V Road in Bandra-Khar, most of Kurla and Hindmata-Parel were inundated. The BMC had claimed to have complet
ed many flood-mitigation measures, including widening and desilting the Mithi River, widening drains, clearing railway drains and so on. The Mithi River crossed the danger mark of 2.7 m and went as high as 3.1 m.
    Mulund-based Reena Manish, who had to catch a flight to Dubai at 7 pm, managed to reach the airport only an hour in advance, as the roads around Powai and Goregaon were flooded. "It took me three hours to reach the airport due to flooding,'' he said.
    Several schools and colleges were either shut or sent students home early. Many office-goers chose to stay home. By evening, though the rains had receded, the roads were almost empty. Trains and BEST buses were surprisingly deserted at peak hours. Perhaps, the memory of 26/7, when Colaba got 77 mm and Santa Cruz got 944 mm of rain, made people opt for caution.

    Traffic police said movement on the Western and Eastern Express Highways was affected badly due to water-logging at several places there. In two instances in Kurla, the compound walls of two homes collapsed, but there were no injuries. As many as 30 trees were uprooted and three persons were injured after a tree fell in Powai in the morning.
    "This was the heaviest rainfall this season. Though there was water-logging in some places, the water receded after it stopped raining,'' said S S Shinde, deputy municipal commissioner.

CITY SCAN
COLABA 44.1 mm SANTA CRUZ 166 mm Rainfall from 8.30 am to 8.30 pm | Source: Met dept
    As many as 158 pumps were deployed across the city on Tuesday to help floodwaters recede
    
A high tide of 3.89 metres was expected around 4.15 pm on Tuesday, but the rains had ebbed by 4 pm

HAVING A BALL (FOR OTHERS IT WAS A HEADACHE): Wading through the floodwaters at Milan subway; a train is halted in its tracks at Kurla; vehicles negotiate through a flooded street outside Jogeshwari station





Families evacuated along the Mithi

Mumbai: When the Mithi river overflowed and touched its 3.1-metre mark on Tuesday afternoon, memories of the 2005 deluge came alive for the people of Kurla's Kranti Nagar slum.
    Incessant showers hit the Mithi's upstream, causing it to cross its dreaded 2.7-metre mark. As the levels started rising, authorities were alerted and rescue missions started. "We alerted the fire officials and the Navy and 140 families were shifted to a school,'' said additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar. This was the area where several people lost their lives in the 26/7 deluge.
    "I got scared when I woke up and saw heavy rain lashing outside. And when announcements were made for us to vacate our homes, visions of the deluge sprang up. It is still difficult for
us to come terms with the loss we faced at that time,'' said 45 year old Ganpat Patil. However, as the rains abated after 4 pm, people came back to their homes. Some continued staying there.
    From Kranti Nagar to Bail Bazaar, Jari Mari to Saki Naka, LWard comprises several areas that absorb the overflow from the Vihar and Tulsi lakes.
    According to experts, the Mithi gets flooded because of the narrow width of the river as it reaches the airport runway. "The widening of the culverts of the river which pass under the runway has not yet been completed as per
the recommendations of the Chitale committee. The width of the culvert under the runway is just 27m and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has to widen it up to a minimum of 40m,'' said local activist Anil Galgali.
    Deputy municipal commissioner Milind Savant agreed that the danger mark at Kranti Nagar bridge is 3.4 metres. "The widening of the culverts should be done soon,'' he said. Senior BMC officials said that the civic body is ready to assist the AAI. "It is up to the AAI to give us permission to widen this portion of the river so that a human tragedy can be avoided when it rains again,'' the official added.
    State labour minister Nawab Malik who inspected the area said that a permanent solution would be the rehabilitation of all the 70,000 slumdwellers staying in this vicinity.
    "By next year, the government will shift slumdwellers from flood-prone areas to the new slum rehabilitation project that is coming up at the Premier Padmini compound in Kurla,'' Malik said.
    An AAI official said they are carrying out the work on the river.


MUMBAI WADES ON WETTEST DAY

 RAIN CHECK
* Kurla | 175 mm Vile Parle | 139 mm Andheri | 131 mm Vikhroli | 120 mm BKC | 116 mm
** Eastern suburbs | 296 mm Western suburbs | 176.5 mm Island city | 184 mm *8.30 am to 3.30 pm Tuesday | **8.30 pm Monday to 3.30 pm Tuesday| Source: BMC

WORST SPOTS
Mithi river overflowed at 3.1 m, crossing the danger mark of 2.7 m at Kranti Nagar in Kurla. Other areas that saw heavy waterlogging included Tagore Nagar (Vikhroli) , Tilak Nagar (Chembur), Andheri subway, Kurla station, Khar subway, Milan subway and Veera Desai Road (Andheri)

    TRAVEL WOES
l Train services came to a halt on the Harbour and Central lines for around three hours in the afternoon. The delays ranged from 15 minutes to an hour on WR and CR
l Flight arrivals delayed by 20-30 minutes and departures by 45-60 minutes. Till evening, 85 departures and 35 arrivals were delayed
LAKES OF HOPE
Good rainfall in the catchment areas of lakes has given Mumbai 10 more days of water, said civic officials. Upper Vaitarna received 44 mm of rain, Modak Sagar 59 mm, Tansa 43 mm, Bhatsa 42 mm, Vihar 238 mm and Tulsi 104 mm
Rainfall from 6 am to 3 pm


Volunteers use a raft to ferry commuters through the flooded Milan subway at Santa Cruz

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Delhi Metro bridge crash kills 6

Cracks In Pillar Had Been Reported, But Given All-Clear By Engineers

New Delhi: In a virtual repeat of the Vikas Marg incident nine months ago, six people, including an engineer, were killed when a pre-fabricated concrete segment of an under-construction Metro viaduct collapsed along with a portion of the girder launcher on Sunday morning.
    Fifteen people were injured in the incident that occurred on the intersection of Lala Lajpat Rai Path and Kalka Devi Marg. It was just providence that the accident occurred at 4.40 am. This road is one of the main spines of the city and leads to Nehru Place, a commercial and official hub of the city. It's also the gateway to many south Delhi colonies and an alternative to BRT and the GK-II route. If the collapse had happened at any time of the day during the week, it would have meant huge casualties.
    The impact of the 200-tonne mass was such that the road below caved in. Local residents and workers at the site said the pillar which collapsed had earlier developed cracks and work had been stopped for two months to get it checked. DMRC chief E Sreedharan admitted the fact but said a committee had inspected the pillar and ruled out anything serious. Work had resumed about two weeks back.
    As for the possible reasons behind the incident, he said it could have been caused due to a design fault or the fault of a contractor. The material, too, could have been inferior, he said. Observers say that in the rush to meet the June 2010 deadline for Commonwealth Games, staff strength may be getting diluted, leading to lax supervision.
We made no mistake, claims Gammon India
New Delhi: The Delhi Metro bridge collapse happened within 24 hours of a minor accident on the Vikas Marg stretch when a jack fitted on a pillar, which had collapsed last year, burst.
    Till late evening, the body of a worker was still trapped in the debris. The dead were identified as Gammon India site engineer Anshuman Pratihar (28) and workers Niranjan (18), Pappu (25), Amit (30), Badan Singh (35) and Bhan Singh (32). The injured were rushed to the AIIMS trauma centre, Safdarjung Hospital and Moolchand Hospital. The police have registered a case of causing death due to negligence under 304 (A), 288, 337, 338 of the IPC. Gammon India is executing the project for the DMRC.
    The DMRC has instituted an inquiry into the incident and the report will be
submitted in 10 days. Sreedharan, while submitting his resignation taking moral responsibility, said: "A project of this dimension and complexity has not been attempted in the country so far and the people have very high expectations from the DMRC. I openly take a challenge that no other organization takes a standard of safety higher than DMRC. But an accident is an accident and even one casualty is too many.'' Gammon India vice president Umesh Gupta refused to comment. "But there is no mistake from our side. Let's wait for the report,'' he said. Mohanlal, deputy divisional warden of Kotla Mubarakpur, told TOI: "We reached around 5.20 am. There were 19 workers at the site and we pulled out six bodies. Three others are still trapped, two on the ground and three on top of the launcher. There were initial indications of the man trapped underneath being alive but now it seems he is either unconscious or dead.'' The Delhi government has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those dead, Rs 2 lakh for the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for those injured. TNN
Centre mulls safety panel
    
Concerned over the spate of accidents at construction sites, the Centre has now proposed a safety commission, which will spell out the norms and their methods of implementation. Urban development secretary M Ramachandran, who rushed to Zamrudpur on Sunday morning after the mishap at the Metro site claimed six lives, told TOI, "once we have the norms in place, all projects in urban areas will follow them. We are hopeful of this happening soon to ensure safety at work sites." TNN


    E Sreedharan, DMRC
    
chief, resigned owning moral responsibility for Sunday's incident. However, chief minister Sheila Dikshit refused to accept his resignation

A project of this dimension and complexity has not been attempted in the country so far and people have very high expectations... No other organisation has a standard of safety higher than DMRC's. But an accident is an accident and even one casualty is too many—Sreedharan


CRUSH HOUR: The road under the bridge caved in as the 200-tonne concrete slab and girder launcher came crashing down. FULL COVERAGE, P 9 


FATAL FALL: Policemen at the accident site

India blinks over cuts in emission

Backs Down On Key Principles It Had Held 'Non-Negotiable'

New Delhi: Has India blinked in the climate change negotiations? It seems so, going by the stand taken at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting in Italy.
    India has gone back on some of its key principles—such as a refusal to accept emission caps—that it held to be non-negotiable until just before the G8 meet.
    In the course of some tough negotiations, India appears to have bent a bit in the face of pressure from the industrialized countries. The biggest compromise at the MEF was to accept that all countries would work to reduce emissions in a bid to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees above preindustrialization levels.

    When this declaration, signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is turned into targets for the various countries, this may imply substantial emission reduction targets for India even if the rich countries take a hefty 80% cut in their own emissions by 2050. While an 80% cut is the most ambitious target ever considered for the developed world, India and China would still be faced with large cutbacks.
    So far, India has insisted that the science behind the two-degree target has been questioned even by the UN climate science panel. It has made it clear that unless rich nations put figures on the table about the sort of reductions they are willing to accept collectively by 2020, and then again by 2050, India would not
agree to any commitments for the long term which the twodegree agreement places.
    This acceptance in the MEF declaration, several Indian observers told TOI, would bind India's hands as it goes into talks at the formal UN negotiations. India has, for the
first time, officially agreed that there is a global target and it may, in due course, spell out what it will take to reach it. Now, the global target of emission cuts, instead of equity, will become the overarching argument in the negotiations, an observer explained.
CARBON CLIMBDOWN

    INDIA'S INITIAL STAND: Unwilling to accept carbon emission caps, insisted that all monetary assistance to check emissions be routed through UN; not ready to allow scrutiny of indigenously funded
climate change projects
    At the last Major Economies Forum (MEF)
in Mexico, India refused to budge on these issues
    At G8 summit, India said it relented as the MEF declaration was only a 'political' statement and US prez Barack Obama clarified it was not a 'negotiating forum'
    In best-case scenario,
India has given away bargaining chips. It may now be under pressure to agree to caps under the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2°C by 2050
India changed stand in 1 month
    Another clear giveaway by India, observers say, was agreeing to put their entire set of climate activities up for international scrutiny. Until now,India has stated that only those actions that are backed by measurable, reportable and verifiable funds and technologies from the rich nations would be up for international scrutiny.
    "If they don't pay for it, why should we allow them to act like big brother and watch over our spending from our own funds?'' an official said, explaining the position earlier and calling it an issue of sovereignty.

    India has also agreed to the idea that it would take action that would bring its emissions down from business-as-usual in the mid-term (read by 2030). So far, India has claimed—and its own as well as World Bank studies have shown—that even on business-as-usual lines, India's per capita emissions in 2030 remain far below those of the rich nations at present. India has always argued that it has no reason to take further action if it is already on a low carbon pathway.
    But, the observers noted, the mention of using per capita emissions-based calculations as the basis of dividing responsibilities has found no mention in the MEF declaration that Manmohan Singh has signed. The word 'equity' which India has always embedded in its arguments also found a weak mention in passing. On the issue of providing finances and technologies, India has also given away more than it
has got in the bargain, observers said. So far, India has claimed, and the Bali Action Plan has laid out, that developing countries will reduce their emissions only if they are enabled by tech and fund transfers.
    This has been watered down in the MEF statement and now such actions will only be 'supported'. "The word 'enabled' meant that action would only be taken when the money was on the table, 'supported' implies we will take action and the money and funds will come at a later date. The trigger value has been lost,'' said one expert.
    Until the last meeting of the MEF in Mexico, all these issues had been non-negotiable for India. So much so, that the negotiations for the MEF statement had ended in a stalemate with India being one of the main countries opposing any text it considered inimical to its interests. It was decided to stretch the backroom negotiations to Italy, days before the heads of
states signed on a statement. Between the Mexico meeting last month and the one in Italy, the Indian government has evidently shifted its goalposts.
    While the MEF statement is not binding on the UN negotiations, it holds huge political value as it has been agreed to by some of the most powerful countries at the table. Even if one assumes some of these were bargaining chips for India to use at the formal climate negotiations, handing over those trump cards so early in the game does not make sense, another observer told TOI.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Incomplete work at pumping stations raise flood concerns

Rs 1,200 cr project was sanctioned after 2005 deluge; city faces heavy rains, high tide later this month

 If the city floods this year, it will be because work on four floodwater pumping stations sanctioned for Rs 1,200 crore by the Centre, have still not been completed. The stations at Versova, Worli, Irla and Haji Ali, were promised to Mumbai under the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drains (BRIMSTOWAD) project after the deluge of July 26, 2005.
    On Wednesday, after the city witnessed 142.38 mm of rain, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had to use pumps to drain out flood waters from several areas. If at least two of the proposed stations – at Irla and Haji Ali – had been functional before the monsoon, flooding would have been far less, admitted engineers at the BMC.
PROJECT DELAYED DUE TO
REHABILITATION OF SLUMS
"The full-fledged commissioning of two major pumping stations will start from October. But we are planning to make the Irla and Haji Ali pumping stations operational before July 24 as heavy rains and high tides are expected," said R A Rajeev, additional municipal commissioner.
    The BMC is planning to start four of the eight pumps at Irla and two of the six pumps at Haji Ali pumping stations.

    Officials said the delay in completing the project of the four pumping stations has been delayed due to the problem of rehabilitation of slums. The central government has allocated Rs 500 crore in the 2009-10 budget for BRIMSTOWAD. The civic administration has spent Rs 437 crore of the total Rs 500 crore released under the scheme.
WATERY WEDNESDAY
On Wednesday, the city was flooded until afternoon though water receded later during the day.
    While places near Andheri, Vile Parle and Santacruz stations are perennial flooding spots, water logging was reported near Hindmata, Slater Road, Gol Dewal, Nair Road as well. Except for heavy vehicles and SUV cars, other modes of road transport, including taxis did not ply on these roads.
    "I waded through water this morning during my visit to flooded spots but the water receded faster this year, compared to last," Rajeev added.

AVERAGE RAINFALL
City: 142.38 mm Eastern suburbs: 47.82 mm Western suburbs: 46.96 mm

A flooded road at Currey Road near NM Joshi Marg. On Wednesday, after the city witnessed 142.38 mm of rain, the BMC had to use pumps to drain out flood waters from several areas

RAIN MAN

Dismal rains have sent civic officials into a frenzied panic, and the city is already seeing a 30 per cent water cut. But now, there seems to be hope in the form of a 70-year-old who promises to bring rain to this metropolis

 Dropping lake levels have been causing city officials sleepless nights. And in this hour of need, their only possible hope is a "rain man". The BMC recently approached Shantilal Meckoni to help bring water to city reservoirs.
The man is no modern-day witch doctor. In fact, he is a scientific expert in the technology of cloud seeding. And, if the 70-year-old is to be believed, he had also helped city fathers with rain as early as 1992. Still, a recent report in a prominent newspaper has angered this 'rain god'.
BMC officials had gone on record saying that the cloud seeding exercise of 1992 was an absolute failure. "We did not have the technical expertise then," they are reported to have said.
But Meckoni is quick in his defence.
"I don't know why they say I had failed then. If I had failed, would they (the BMC) have called me again?" he retorts.

    And he's quick to draw out statistics to prove his claim.
    In 1992, the civic body had chosen 17 days to carry out an artificial cloud seeding experiment.
    "Of these 17 days, cloud seeding was carried out for nine days at the modest total cost of Rs 1 lakh. As a result, rainfall increased by 30 to 35 per cent on those days. Also, specimens of water collected by the BMC in Tansa and Vaitarna had silver iodide particles, which proved that the rain in the area was caused by cloud seeding. Vaitarna's level rose by 10 to 15 metres, while Tansa's level rose by four metres," Meckoni says.
    Now 15 years later, he's back on the job.
    This time, however, it will cost the BMC close to Rs 10 lakh to generate sufficient rainfall in the catchment area of the lakes.
    Meckoni has now submitted a detailed report on cloud seeding to the civic body.
    "I don't charge the BMC for my expertise," he says, rather benevolently.
    "All the money will be used to
procure the raw material needed. If the programme is carried out for 10 days, each day would cost the BMC Rs 1 lakh. The authorities, however, will also have to provide manpower and equipment such as generators, etc," he adds.
    Meckoni likens the clouds over the lake sites of Tansa and Vaitarna to an old motor car.
"It's like it refuses to start. You push it for a short distance, and then it purrs to life, gradually catching speed. Similarly, these clouds need a catalyst to cause them to rain. And I'm the man who will coax them to," he says.
    An owner of a construction firm, Meckoni turned to rainmaking after he met an Israeli farmer who was visiting Mumbai. "I heard about cloud seeding from him," he says. "So I soon went to Israel where I learnt about the science."
    When Meckoni returned to India, he tried out the technology in Kutch to great success.

    It had rained about 75 mm in 1991 after the experiment.
    "The news spread and people started calling me," he says.
    And now, he's waiting to do his magic for Mumbai.
    However, when contacted, a senior civic official said they would be waiting for a couple of days before talking to Meckoni. "Cloud seeding is not an easy process. According to the Meteorological department, the humidity levels should be above 75 per cent and the clouds should be hanging below 500 metres. We will wait till the time is right," he said.

WHAT IS CLOUD SEEDING
Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification where, after a careful study, clouds are sprinkled with sodium chloride and silver iodide to help in the liquefaction of humidity.
A total of 24 countries currently practise weather modification. In the United States, cloud seeding is used to increase rainfall in areas experiencing drought, to reduce the size of hailstones and to reduce the amount of fog around airports.
China has the largest cloud seeding system in the world. The technique was used ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to clear the air of pollution. In February this year, it was also used to artificially induce snowfall over Beijing

Mumbai's last hope, rainmaker Shantilal Meckoni


Shantilal Meckoni

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

BMC cracks whip as water woes worsen

Mumbai: In an unprecedented development in the city, the severe water shortage led to the BMC cutting supply to 32 buildings under construction on Tuesday. Water supply to the 32 sites was snapped within hours of the civic headquarters ordering individual wards to begin cutting supply to new construction, jacuzzis, gardens and swimming pools. Orders were also given to reduce water supply to hotels and clubs.
    The developers who faced cuts were given various reasons, including outstanding arrears. Seven-day warning notices were also delivered to as many as 80 other developers, threatening them with action in case of misuse of water and non-payment of dues.

    Owners of hotels, jacuzzis, clubs, gardens and pools remained unaffected on the first day of the extreme measures taken as officials were still busy compiling information on their numbers and usage. "We hope to save about 200 mld (million
litres a day) from the drive,'' said Pramod Charankar, deputy municipal commissioner.
    The city has been reeling under a water shortage due to poor rain in the six catchments.
Although there was heavy rain on Tuesday night, the situation remains grim. Facing the brunt are the western suburbs and the island city. In fact, Upper Vaitarna, the largest supplier of water to that region, is now giving no water. It has dipped below the drawable limit and the BMC has decided not to use its reserves for fear of dipping into water which is to be used the rest of the year. Vihar lake, which supplies mostly to the Kurla area, has also dipped below the drawable limit. However, officials are pumping reserves from that lake.

    Charankar said that the western suburbs and island city have about 20 to 25 days of water left in the Tansa and Modak Sagar (Lower Vaitarna) lakes, while Bhatsa holds a 50- to 55-day supply for the eastern suburbs.



GULP! 30% WATER CUT FROM TODAY

But there's good news... BMC is chalking out a plan to induce artificial rainfall in the city, using an expensive but reliable technique called cloud seeding

As the rains continue to play hideand-seek with the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has imposed 30 per cent water cut across Mumbai starting today. To compensate for the meagre downpour, however, the civic body is contemplating the use of a technology to artificially induce rainfall.
    City lakes are fast drying up, with only 25 days' worth of water left for the western suburbs, and enough to last another two months in the eastern suburbs and the island city.
    According to a senior civic official, the BMC will now stop providing water to swimming pools and private gymnasiums, and curtail supply to government and semi-government organisations including Railways, BPCL and HPCL.
    "We will also supply less water to fivestar hotels and public gardens. The BMC will try to save as much as water as possible, which will be used for drinking purposes," said S Korlekar, chief engineer of the civic hydraulic department.
    Urging people to cooperate with the civic body to save every possible drop, he
requested citizens not to use bathtubs for at least a few days. In the meantime, said Korlekar, the BMC is preparing a disaster contingency plan "to cope with the current water crisis".
IF IT DOESN'T RAIN,
IT MAY STILL POUR!
Korlekar revealed that BMC may employ a technology called cloud seeding to induce rainfall in areas where lakes are situated.
    In 2003, an artificial rainfall experiment was conducted in western Maharashtra, covering Satara, Baramati and Pune. Though it was not entirely successful, it still brought much relief to the region.
    This time round, the job will be assigned to a firm that is familiar with the process. "Met department experts and IITians will help us as we try out the technique. It is expensive, but drinking water is important," said a senior civic official.
    Officials are currently working out details of the plan, and will decide whether to go ahead with it in the next eight days.
WHAT ELSE THE BMC IS DOING
TO DEAL WITH WATER CRISIS
An official said that the BMC has decided to clean up and repair all existing
borewells and wells, and that Rs 50 lakh will be earmarked for each civic ward to dig new ones.
    He added: "We will also implement rainwater harvesting across the city. Action will be taken against those who do not follow."

WHAT IS CLOUD SEEDING
    
Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification where, after a careful study, clouds are sprinkled with sodium chloride and silver iodide to help in the liquefaction of humidity.
    A total of 24 countries currently practise weather modification. In the United States, cloud seeding is used to increase rainfall in areas experiencing drought, to reduce the size of hailstones and to reduce the amount of fog around airports.
    China has the largest cloud seeding system in the world. The technique was used ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to clear the air of pollution. In February this year, it was also used to artificially induce snowfall over Beijing.




Saturday, July 4, 2009

DOWNPOUR LEAVES TWO DEAD

City stuck in waterworld

Mumbai: The second major shower of Monsoon 2009 claimed two lives and caused waterlogging in several areas of the city on Saturday. Between 8.30 am and 8.30 pm, Colaba and Santa Cruz received 102.9 and 209 mm of rain, respectively.
    The rains claimed two lives. Govandi resident 40-year-old Manjula Devendra died after being electrocuted on the streets near her home, while 40-year-old Surekha Sabale died when a tree collapsed on her hutment in Kandivli on Friday night. Two others in
jured in the second incident were treated at Bhagwati Hospital in Borivli.
    Incidents of wall collapse were reported from the Bandra Terminus subway, Kurla, Bandra (East), Chunabhatti, Mahul and Bhandup. Two persons—a woman passenger and a ticket checker—were injured in the Bandra Terminus mishap and taken to Bhabha Hospital.
    Heavy rains overnight and continuing into the morning meant the the usual flood
prone spots—Hindmata, Parel, Kalachowkie—went under water for hours, stalling traffic, especially in the evening.
    Drains were clogged at other areas in Juhu, Andheri, Bandra, Mahim, Byculla and

Worli. Several arterial roads from the island city to the suburbs were under water during the first few hours.
    BMC officials, who claimed that water pumps were functional all the time and it took less time than usual for the water to recede, said the showers were heavier than what occurred on June 26. "This is the heaviest shower of the monsoon so far and we now expect rains to arrive in full flow in Mumbai,'' deputy municipal
commissioner S S Shinde said.
    For flooding at Hindmata, where corrective measures were carried out in the underground drains recently by the BMC, officials blamed the MMRDA for the mess. "They have not removed barricading around work sites at various places and that has clogged the drains,'' said a BMC official.
    Hasnabad Lane (Santa Cruz west) and Peter Dias Road and St Sebastian Road (Bandra) were under 3 ft of water in the evening. A tree fell near Mehboob Studio, blocking traffic.
    Navi Mumbai, too, got its heaviest downpour on Saturday but public services were not affected. The Nerul node saw the highest rainfall of 77 mm (from midnight to 5 pm), Vashi recorded 71.7 mm and Belapur had 51.3 mm of rain in the same period. There was also waterlogging at a few places in Sanpada, Turbhe, Ghansoli and parts of Belapur.
    "As road traffic was slow on Saturday due to the rains, our buses were running a few minutes late. No breakdown was reported,'' an official at the NMMT control room said.
    A tree fell near Sainath School in Vashi Sector 9; no one was injured.

More rains today
Weather bureau officials said they expected "very heavy showers'' over the next 24 hours. Between 8.30 am and 8.30 pm on Saturday, Colaba and Santa Cruz received 102.9 mm and 209 mm of rain, respectively.

High tide worry
The high tide level on Sunday will be 3.99 m at 11.46 am. This could become a cause for concern if it rains heavily on Sunday as well. The highest point the tide reached on Saturday evening was 3.17 m at 10.21 pm.

DISASTER DOWN UNDER: A wall collapse in the Bandra Terminus subway left two persons injured






TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT: (Clockwise from top) Pedestrians wade through a waterlogged street in Parel; there was heavy flooding in Sion as well; traffic came to a standstill across central Mumbai

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Mosquito breeding at its peak now, warn doctors

Mumbai: The on-off showers may have given Mumbaikars the weather they were looking for but the showers have also got health officials worried. Mosquito-breeding is at its peak during such intermittent rains, warn doctors, urging Mumbaikars to watch out for any symptoms of fever with chills.
    "When there are heavy rains, the breeding
sites get washed out. But rain in short spells is dangerous as breeding sites increase tremendously,'' BMC executive health Jairaj Thanekar said, adding that people who were suffering from fever should consult their doctors to first get malaria ruled out.
    The warnings come in the wake of two more malaria deaths in the city last week, one each to the vivax and falciparum forms taking the total toll to six since June.
    Pointing out the challenge the intermittent rains posed, civic insecticide officer Deepak Adsul said every shower washed out the insecticide treatment BMC personnel administer.
HEALTH SCARE Viral cases in city on the rise: Docs Pratibha Masand | TNN
Mumbai: Swapnali Rane (25), a resident of Shivaji Nagar,had to take a day off from work on Saturday and has not been able to report for duty even on Monday.Reason:she was down with viral fever. Several others are facing the same situation. General practitioners have reported an increase in the number of viral fever cases.
    "I would say there is a 10-15% increase in the number of viral fever cases in my clinic,'' says Dr Sunita Kshirsagar, president of the city unit of the Indian Medical Association. Dr Ashish Tiwari from Bombay Hospital agrees. "The increase is only slight, but as viral fever spreads very fast, it is im
portant that people take care,'' he says.
    "I had got a cold first. Then on Friday, I started getting fever. I had to take an off otherwise others in my office would have been infected too,'' says Rane. "Generally, people tend to self-medicate and only when the situation

worsens, they run to the doctor. The first thing that people should to do if they have got a cold or a fever is consult their general practitioner,'' says Dr Tiwari.
    Dr Suhas Pingle, secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Maharashtra advises those who have got fever to re
main indoors, take bed rest and avoid going to crowded places. "People bunk office for a cricket match. But when they have viral fever, they want to go to office and spread it around. Even mothers of children in Std I do not want them to bunk school for the fear of them missing out on something important in school,'' he says. "If someone sneezes, one should cover his/her nose. Also, people should keep washing their hands at regular intervals as we never know who has touched what,'' advises Dr Tiwari. "If someone in the family has got the viral infection, others in the family are bound to get it too. So take care of family members if they have been infected,'' says Dr Pingle.




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