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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vibrant metropolis needs citizens’ help

Mumbai: If history has taught us one thing, it's that great cities go beyond inspiring architecture and overwhelming skyscrapers. A wellnetworked transport system, green space and above all a planned township that provides its inhabitants that seemingly elusive quality of life are the hallmarks of a vibrant metropolis. All this and much more can only become reality if citizens are involved 

in the planning of their home. 
    And as citizens' groups and infrastructure experts debate any city's upcoming development plan with municipal authorities, they argue that a long-term proposal for a city can hardly succeed unless it involves local participation at each level. In other words, it's the people whose active participation defines the pulse of 
a city, not just urban planners and government bodies. 
    Going one step ahead, private players who are in the business of infrastructure and real estate across Maharashtra and beyond say that public-private partnership also works best for urban planning and making a city "liveable''. 
    In a bid to encourage such initiatives, The Times of In
dia and Lavasa have launched the Lavasa Future Cities Campaign, an extensive programme that intends to kickstart a journey towards developing "future cities'' in India. A future city would be one whose transportation, water supply, drainage and governance would not crumble under the weight of ever-increasing urbanisation. Planners would focus on development without losing sight of well-being and prosperity and include space for residents of all economic backgrounds, perhaps looking to India's first planned city of Mohenjo Daro for artistic inspiration. 
    Emphasising the need for such a project, industrialist Ajit Gulabchand, promoter of Lavasa and the chairman and managing director of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), sounds a note of alarm when he estimates that 400 million Indians will migrate from rural to urban areas over the next 40 years. "The move towards urbanisation that Europe saw over a period of 1,000 years will occur in India in just four decades,'' he says. "Given that our existing cities will hardly be able to cope with such an influx, it is necessary for government and private enterprise to expand existing cities and build new neighbourhoods.'' 
    Adding another statistic to his argument, he feels that no less than 500 new cities will be required to absorb the force of 
such mass migration. "However, in order to make these new cities sustainable, we must overcome the typical urban malaise of leaving all responsibility to the state government. Taking the onus of governance onto themselves, citizens should set up their own civic body, that will be accountable to the people.'' 
    Some of that opinion was reflected in Mumbai in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 attacks when the citizenry felt the state machinery was not proving adequate. "The common man must become involved in planning and execution. We ourselves have set up a new integrated system by publicprivate partnership in Lavasa with active help from the government of Maharashtra,'' Gulabchand adds. 
    Holding up the Singapore model and referring to the odd Indian example like Chandigarh and Gandhinagar, he says a little more time spent by planners at the drawing table could make life easier for urban India.

HOMING IN: An estimated 400 million Indians will migrate from rural to urban areas over the next 40 years




Saturday, October 24, 2009

Class no bar for climate change

On Saturday, International Day for Climate Action, Mumbai Mirror took the environmental debate to the city's commoners to bring you views of how it affects day-to-day lives

VIRAT A SINGH 

 At a unique gathering – Voices from Mumbai's Margins – at St Xavier's College, a section of the city's underprivileged got a platform to share their views on climate change. The event was co-hosted by various NGOs such as Oxfam India, Centre for Education and Documentation and Yuva. This Mumbai Mirror correspondent got talking with two people on their understanding of the Copenhagen meeting on climate change in December, and the muchbandied-about term 'global warming'. They told us their day-to-day experiences indicative that the mercury is definitely on the rise. 
ORGANISERS SEE 'RED' 
OVER CALLOUS ACT 
At a related event, where Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) and 350.org had gotten together a human chain along Marine Drive to commemorate the International Day for Climate Action, energy drinks company Red Bull gatecrashed, making the organisers irate. 
    A furious Ruchi Jain, Coordinator, 350.org hollered, "We are not associated with them in any way, and they just landed here and started distributing their free energy drinks. People and participants threw the empty cans all around, defeating the very purpose of the event. Our volunteers had to go around collecting these cans and disposing them properly in dustbins. We plan to send them a warning letter to prevent them from cashing in on our events like this. It was an event to spread awareness about environment degradation and not to promote their drinks. 

    Dhwani Shah, a volunteer, who collected empty cans, said, "It was sad that some volunteers threw the cans around. However, mostly it was the onlookers, who were littering after drinking their free drinks. If they wanted to promote their drinks, they should have also ensured they put up a bin asking people to throw the cans in it."

Demonstrators at Marine Drive protesting global warming


Sushila Sabale, 42, a rag-picker in the past, now with Stree Mukti Sangathana 
"I came to Mumbai from Jalna in 1972, and worked 
as a rag-picker. Back then, there was more greenery. I am not aware of global warming. However, I do know Mumbai's temperatures have gone up. Earlier, we found more paper in garbage, now we only get plastic. The volume of garbage has been increasing too, and segregating becomes difficult. 
    "Earlier, we had heavy rains for days, yet never any flooding. Today, there is flooding with barely minutes of light showers. Now, we never know season changes – be it winter, summer or monsoon they are all same. 

    "Rag-pickers start their day at 5 am, and pick around 60 kg of paper and plastic. There are about 20,000 women rag-pickers in Mumbai. People in the city, whose waste we segregate, do not even know the role we play in reducing the quantity of garbage and recycling loads of it."


Suresh Gawali, 45, cobbler 
"I came from Jalgaon 35 years ago. Earlier, we needed warm woollies while working on footpaths during Diwali. Now, winters have been 
postponed to December, so there must be something wrong in the climate. Even the monsoon arrives late, and the summers are unbearable. I may not be well educated, yet it does not take schooling to know that weather's undergone drastic changes, and Mumbai's environment has been eroded in the name of development. 
    "We have to work from pavements, and all the dust and pollution affects us adversely. Earlier, there was much less vehicle emission too. When I landed in Mumbai and lived in slums, we had no electricity and never needed fans. Today, one cannot be with
out a fan even for a minute throughout the year. That explains the climate has changed to a large extent."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Emergency lift becomes a death trap

The 6 Deceased Had 20 Years Of Fire-Fighting Experience

Thane: It was a bleak Diwali for the families and colleagues of the six firemen who died of suffocation and burn injuries after being trapped in the elevator of Punarvasu Building in the posh Tarangan Complex, Thane, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Even as mourners paid their final respects at the memorial service held on Sunday on the grounds of Wagle Estate fire station, the mood was grim. What caused the fire lift to malfunction? The six firemen — they were no rookies — who rushed to the building at 4.30 am on Sunday were unable to reach the blaze that had engulfed Flat 144 on the top-most fourteenth floor, as the steel doors of the fire lift failed to open. 

    In fact, this was the second call to the fire brigade from the same flat in less than five hours. The first alarm was sounded around 11.30 pm on October 17, after neighbours reported a fire that seemed to have started from the bedroom of the owner, Ravindra Kulkarni's empty flat. 
    Pramod Goel, who alerted the Wagle Estate fire station the first time, said: "The firemen arrived in minutes with water tankers and by 1 am, they left after extinguishing it.'' Some smouldering flames may have been reignited, said a senior fire official on condition of anonymity. He added that a strong breeze could have been the catalyst. 
    "The second fire was big. Residents began to evacuate the building immediately. The fire brigade arrived around 4.30 am, and one team took the elevator to reach the 14th floor,'' said resident Madhurima Rajendra Sawale. 
    Fire officials were loath to talk about the malfunction of the lift and are waiting for the enquiry report. It took us more than six hours to get the fire under control, and the toxic — from the burnt furniture and upholstery — had engulfed the entire floor, possibly resulting in the lift to malfunction, chief fire officer of Thane Vijay Vaidya told TOI. "There was total chaos. One team, that had taken the stairs, had to battle heavy smoke and flames on the thirteenth floor. 
It was only after 30 minutes of intense fire fighting that my men were able to reach the fourteenth floor. We broke down the lift door, but by then, all my six men had died of burns and toxic carbon monoxide,'' said Vaidya. These six men had more than 20 years of experience behind them. 
    Vaidya said the cause of the first fire was a cracker, but refused to elaborate on the second blaze. "The first fire at 11.30 pm was due to a fire cracker. The plastic in the balcony had caught fire; the flames reached the curtains and the wooden bed. But our team arrived in the nick of 
time and the situation was brought under control by 1 am,'' he said. 
    He overruled negligence as the cause of the second fire. "J C Singh had led the team at 11.30 pm and had successfully controlled the fire. Probably, 
they miscalculated the scope of the fire when they approached the flat via the lift the second time,'' he said, adding that if his men had been aware of the magnitude of the situation, they would have halted the elevator on the twelfth or thirteenth floor. 
    The Thane Municipal Corporation has announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the relatives of the deceased and also a permanent job. The state government has announced Rs 2 lakh compensation to the
next of kin. The three other flats on the floor escaped with minor damages. Their entry doors were gutted because of the intensity of the flames. The owner of the flat told TOI that he was in no frame of mind to talk to the press. 
A DARK DIWALI 
OCTOBER 17 11.15 pm: Fire is spotted in the bedroom of Flat no. 144 on the 14th floor of Punarvasu Building, Tarangan Complex 11.28 pm: Wagle Estate station is alerted by a resident 11.30 pm: The flat owner R Kulkarni who is out with his family rushes home 11.35 pm: Fire engines from Wagle Estate and Balkum fire stations rush to the building 11.40 pm: Leading fireman J C Singh and his men take the building's fire lift to reach the flat and extinguish the flames, which have partially destroyed the walls 

OCTOBER 18 1.05 am: The fire brigade team leaves the house after dousing the fire. They advise Kulkarni and the residents of the three other flats on the same floor to spend the night elsewhere 4.00 am:Huge flames engulf the same flat. All residents leave the building. Some even take the lift to reach the ground floor 4.30 am: Three fire teams rush to the spot. While Singh, along with five of his firemen, take the lift to the 14th floor, one team uses the stairs and the other reaches the terrace of the adjoining building 4.40 am:Firemen who take the stairs battle a wall of smoke on the 13th floor 5.10 am: They reach the 14th floor only to realise that their colleagues are trapped in the lift. They break open the doors of the elevator, but find the six firemen dead 10.30 am: Fire is extinguished 
Fireman incoherent after tragedy 
    
Unable to bear the shock of losing his friends and close colleagues in the fire at Tarangan Complex on Sunday, a grief-stricken fireman, Muneer Mulla, has been hospitalised for "disorderly behaviour". It is learnt that Mulla (44), a fireman from the Wagle Estate fire station, was present at the spot on Sunday and was assigned the duty of releasing water from the tankers. However, upon seeing the charred and lifeless bodies of his six colleagues, Mulla went into sudden shock, said eye-witnesses. According to them, the fireman began making incoherent statements and "seemed unstable". He has been moved to the Kalwa Civic Hospital, where he has been confined to a room, said sources. 

    Inquiry into malfunction of lift 
    
State fire officials said on Monday that the six firemen who were killed while attempting to reach the blaze on the fourteenth floor of Punarvasu building had not erred in using the fire lift. "They had used the fire lift of the building, which is meant for firemen during any emergency. However, what remains to be seen is whether or not the elevator meant for such situations was built according to specifications and designs," said M V Deshmukh, a senior state government official. He said that a fire lift should be manually operated and should have a 24-volt power supply from a separate service in case of power shutdown. "Also, the lift is automatically grounded and the doors open if the power supply to it trips. An inquiry will reveal all of this," Deshmukh said. 
NEGLIGENCE OR ERROR IN JUDGEMENT? 
A senior state department official said the tragedy calls for implementation of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, which lays down rules for a six-monthly audit of elevators. The auditors will certify the fitness of the lifts twice a year and submit their findings to officials. The fire lift used by the six men should have had a 24-volt power supply from a separate service. "In such lifts, the doors open up if the power supply to it trips," said the official.

AWDHOOT THANEKAR 
The 41-year-old was the youngest of the firemen who died in the elevator. He is survived by his wife and a 10-year-old daughter



    J C SINGH 
The 56-year-old had put in 30 years of service. He was due for retirement in 2011. His last rites were performed by his son who arrived from Dehli on Monday



    SANTOSH SHINDE 
The 43-year-old was from the 1989 batch. He was an experienced fire fighter and would always lead the team from the front



    S R JAMADAR 
Like his deceased colleague, K Patil, Jamadar was from the 1994 batch, and would often lead the team. He is survived by his wife and two children



    J J KALE 
The 44-year-old Kale volunteered to go with the team to the building. He is survived by his wife and three school-going children



    KISHORE PATIL 
The 45-year-old fireman is survived by his wife and three children. He had joined the TMC fire services in 1994, and had many years of experience


TRAGIC WEEKEND: The 14th floor flat of Punarvasu Building in Tarangan Complex, Thane, caught fire


THE AFTERMATH: The doors of the three other apartments on the floor were destroyed








IN MEMORIAM: Residents and officials honour the six firemen who died in the Thane blaze. The 14th floor apartment in the upmarket complex was gutted completely. The first blaze was extinguished at around 1am on October 19, but the flat caught fire again at 4 am


US robbers targeting Indian homes for gold

Washington: Police in the US have found a disturbing trend of Indian-American homes being targeted by burglars for gold, which guarantees the robbers of better money, thanks to the soaring price of the precious metal, rather than traditional electronic items. 

    Since high quality gold jewellery—of 22 carats or more—is found mostly in homes of Indians in particular and South Asians in general, the police say the robbers have increasingly started targeting such homes, a media report said. 
    The Washington Post said several cases of burglars breaking into Indi
an homes and making off with gold have been reported in neighbourhoods in and around Washington, which has a sizeable Indian population. 
    "The burglars are discerning. They have taken 22-carat pieces but left behind sterling silver and well-crafted costume jewellery. They have sifted through floor-length 
gowns lovingly stored in closets and plucked every custom-made sari threaded with gold worth thousands, disdaining saris worth only hundreds,'' the report said. 
    Last Thursday at least three such cases were reported in Loudoun county, Vir
ginia. Burglars broke into six Indian homes in Fairfax too. Another 16 burglaries between January and August were reported in Reston, Centreville and Fair Oaks, the daily said. 
    It added that unsolved crimes mirrored a pattern of 93 burglaries in Houston, 37 in central Illinois and several near St Paul, Minnesota. 

    Police had yet to figure out how the burglars identified homes with large gold caches, the paper said. Victims and police had eliminated obvious links like churches, temples, or even grocery stores where they could have been tracked, it added. AGENCIES 
Gold prices prove a draw for US robbers 
Washington: Police in the United States have uncovered a trend of burglars targeting Indian and South 
Asian homes and making off with gold jewellery, which guarantees better returns than electronics in the current economy. 
    "There is targeting due to gold prices. That's how we are talking about it, rather than ethnicity,'' said Mary 
Ann Jennings, police spokeswoman in Fairfax county, Virginia state. 
    Raman Kumar, whose house was burgled recently, said the thieves took away a gold statue of Lakshmi while left other electronic items including 
laptop. "Here is the thing: If you know our customs, you know we carry a lot of gold,'' he said. 
    The Post said thieves operate with a notable precision, not only in choosing houses but also on sorting the take. "Vindhya Kommineni lost her most expensive saris made for her wedding, her wedding rings and a sterling dinner set 
that included gold inlay as part of an October 6 burglary that was one of two that day on a block in Fair Oaks. Not all of her gowns were taken, nor were all of her silver utensils,'' the daily said. AGENCIES



Faulty lift kills 6 Thane firemen

Six fire-fighters succumbed to suffocation and burn injuries in a malfunctioning elevator while trying to reach a blaze that had engulfed a 14th-floor flat of a Thane highrise early on Sunday morning. They were using a fire lift, installed specifically for such emergencies, said a senior state government official. An inquiry has begun into why the lift doors did not open in Tarangan Complex. 

    The men, from Wagle Estate fire station, died while attending to the second call from the same flat in less than five hours. Scenes of grief (left) dominated as hundreds came to bid farewell to the firemen at a memorial on Sunday. The person manning the water tank during the emergency call had to be hospitalised as he became incoherent on seeing the bodies of his colleagues.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

They arethe change they want to see

The Collector Delhi  Anshu Gupta was studying journalism at Delhi when he came across Habib, who used to take care of abandoned bodies near LNJP hospital. It was the winter of 1991 and often, Habib's daughter would cling to a corpse to keep herself warm. The little girl didn't have any warm clothes. The same year, Anshu was working with the earthquake victims of Uttarkashi, when he saw people wearing jackets made out of gunnysacks. They didn't want food or money. They just wanted warm coats. For the next seven years Anshu worked as a corporate communications specialist but yesterday's images still haunted him. He realized that India didn't have a single organization to supply clothes to the poor and dispossessed. Goonj was born — an NGO that collects and donates clothes, leftover uniforms, backpacks, pencils, books and notebooks to poor people across the country. "Clothing is a basic need, not disaster-relief material. Why should the poor wait for a disaster to get some clothes," says Anshu, who chucked his job with Escorts and started Goonj by taking all the extra clothes he found at home and the houses of friends and relatives and distributing them on Delhi's roads. 

    What started as a single-room, one-man organization has 15 offices, 125 employees and a fleet of volunteers across the country today. Anshu insists, "We never wanted to grow as an organization. We wanted to grow as an idea so that people replicate it." 
    Volunteers go door to door, collecting clothes, books, waterbottles — anything that can be used by the poor in the hamlets of Bihar, Orissa or Assam. Anshu says Goonj is helping to "change the mindset of the urban population about the optimal utilization of vital resources through concepts like recycle and reuse." 
    As well as lending a hand to those who need it most. 
    – Shobhan Saxena 
The Shoe Santa Mumbai 
    The man sleeping outside a shop near Kandivili station is drunk. Nandan Pandya wakes him up with a question: "Do you have slippers?" The man's brow furrows. Pandya ferrets out a pair of new black plastic slippers from a polythene bag and asks him to try them on. The man takes the pair, fidgets, then holds them close to his chest and salutes the ground. It's Pandya's cue to leave. 
    For eight years, Pandya, 21, a finalyear engineering student, has greeted many owners of unhappy feet in this way. Most are "too overwhelmed to emote". Every week, Pandya buys at least six or seven pairs of slippers and scans the streets for cracked heels, swollen ankles, raw soles — any evidence of prolonged barefootedness. His target audience includes garlandsellers, hawkers, beggars, pavementdwellers — people who can't afford to throw shoes at politicians no matter how much they want to. 
    Pandya spends nearly Rs 300 on his goody bag. He buys only plastic slippers. "Many people want rainy-day shoes as they suffer from various foot diseases when they step into puddles," says the student, whose beneficiaries are mainly to be found at suburban stations. 

    So why does he do this knowing full well that many of his recipients might sell his gift rather than wear it? He always adds the careful warning, "Please don't sell these," but says it doesn't really bother him if they do. "I don't give because they will use the shoes, I give because they need it." He says his slipper service has changed him forever. "Now, I don't shout when the rickshawallah refuses to hand me back a five-rupee balance." 
    —Sharmila Ganesan-Ram 
The Good Doctors Chennai 
    In 1953, a bus bearing Stanley Medical College students broke down on a field trip near Alamadhi village in Thiruvallur. The young people stepped out of the vehicle to stretch their legs and were horrified by the squalid conditions in the village. Ever since, young doctors from this college have visited Alamadhi every Sunday to provide free medical care to people who are all but abandoned by the authorities. 

    "We want to set an example for all medical colleges in the country," says Nivedita Govindarajan, a second-year student. "If each college adopts one village, the country's health will improve dramatically." 
    Chennai's good doctors set a good example. Every Sunday, a bus packed with medical students, junior and senior doctors leaves the campus for Alamadhi where hundreds of villagers wait with eagerness and hope. Within minutes of
their arrival at the village, a tiny house is turned into an outpatient ward. "We take medicines and injections from the hospital. If required, we ask patients to come to the hospital the next day," says Dr Dinakar Moses, a member of the faculty. 
    The college has developed such a strong bond with the village over the years that a trip to Alamadhi has become part of the curriculum. Seniors students inspire the junior to board the Sunday bus. And they do it with pride and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. "God created the world and we have taken responsibility for serving the needy," says Govindarajan. 
    The College is trying to extend its adolescent healthcare, anti-smoking and anti-alcohol programmes to other villages. But, Stanley students don't want to limit their good work to healthcare. Last year, under the Green Hands Project funded by the Isha Foundation, the medicos distributed and planted more than 50,000 saplings in and around Chennai. This year, their target is one lakh. 
    – Devparna Acharya 
The Teachers Dehradun 
    For the boys of Doon School, charity begins at home. Literally so. Every afternoon, a bunch of boys and one of the masters walks to Panchayat Ghar right behind Hyderabad House. The two-room building becomes a classroom for children of the school's support staff. Every day, Doscos and their teachers work with the children on language and social skills and the knottier aspects of science. It's not social service. It's an SUPW class, otherwise known as Socially Useful Productive Work. It's been in operation since 1935, the year Doon was established. "For us, social service is an extended classroom; it not only teaches us how to serve but also to appreciate smaller things in life and learn about the hard reality of our country," says Aditi Joshi, a student. 

    The schoolboys learn this reality in the SUPW class, which is not restricted to the campus. In fact, it travels to anyone in need: Illiterate slum-dwellers; victims of natural disasters; various villages in order to help build schools and hospitals. "We all talk about poverty but It's our duty to do something about it," says student Tarang Khurana, in a modern echo of the school's first headmaster Arthur Foot who wanted to create an "aristocracy of service, not one of 

privilege, wealth or position." 
    In recent years, Doon's students have helped leprosy patients in Tamil Nadu, tsunami victims in Orissa and underprivileged communities around Dehradun. "We are grateful to these communities for allowing us to walk into their lives and for providing a learning experience to our students," says A K Chalasani, master in charge of social service at the school. – TNN







Another flood coming up...

Southern India has just suffered one of the worst floods ever, but these are hardly the last we are likely to see. Most at risk are the 11 states that share the Ganga river basin — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. A K Bajaj should know. He's chairman of the Central Water Commission and member of the Ganga Flood Control Commission. He says, "Forty million hectares in India are flood-prone and the Ganga river basin accounts for half of that." 

    Most of this is unprotected area. Just 15,000 of the 231,000 hectares in Himachal that would be affected by flooding have flood-control measures such as dams and embankments. 
    Orissa is exceedingly vulnerable too. Experts at The Environment Research Institute (Teri) point to a severely increased risk of flooding. "Past data shows that areas with prolonged drought have a tendency to get flooded after four-five years," says senior Teri scientist Pradhan Parth Sarthi. Just weeks ago, he says, most parts of Andhra and Karnataka were reeling under a severe drought. Now, those areas are under water. "A similar situation is now developing in Orissa," he warns. 
    So, is there no stopping the deluge? And does the scale of misery have to be so immense? Not really, say experts, India just hasn't learnt to manage its river resources properly. "Unplanned, unregulated developmental activity in the flood plains of rivers and encroachments in the waterways has already led to an increase in flood losses and may cause more flooding in future," says Bajaj. 
    He says the Central Water Commission had advised flood-plain zoning a few years ago. A formula was devised for usage of land adjacent to a river, based on river bed characteristics and water levels. Bajaj says that in an ideal world there would be no permanent structures in areas 
most prone to floods, even though that land would be rich to farm. "But in a country as vast and overpopulated as India, implementing all this has not been possible," he says. 
    Officials say the Capital is an excellent example of a disaster just waiting to happen. Many permanent structures have come up on the Yamuna flood plain, including a Metro station, a temple and even a flyover. Just last month, due to heavy rain in the catchment areas, the Yamuna breached its banks and lowlying areas had to be evacuated. And yet, say officials, further "development" of the Ya
muna flood plains is underway. That includes multi-level parking and sports stadia. This shortsightedness is surprising for a city that suffered frequent flooding between 1956 and 1988. Delhi's worst flood was recorded in 1978. Experts caution that two uneventful decades floods-wise can be no guarantee of safety. 
If anything, the Capital reflects a nationwide complacency. The government has a 54-year-old formula to calculate flood plain: Land equivalent to 3.5 times the width of the river on either side is deemed the flood plain, where permanent settlements are not allowed. The formula would mean that even if a river changed course suddenly, there would be little devastation. But, officials say, the formula has never been implemented. This, despite parts of Bihar and UP being at constant risk from the Ganga and Kosi, which frequently change course, bringing death and destruction in their wake. 
Parth Sarthi warns against the Brahmaputra as well. It's a very turbulent river and "if there are floods in upper Assam, it could lead to submergence of lower Assam areas and there would be no way to control it." 
R K Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says climate change has aggravated the problem and "floods are increasing in frequency and intensity." Parth Sarthi cites a recent IPCC report that warns that "South Asia may be prone to extreme events of flooding owing to climate change." 
The 2006 Barmer floods are a case in point. "Such a thing is unimaginable in a parched desert. The recorded history in Barmer points to scarce rainfall in the past 90 years or so. This may be a sign of climate change," says Parth Sarthi. 
He adds that there are warning signs elsewhere and they need to be read correctly — and acted upon. "Parts of Punjab and Haryana states may also be flooded in the near future after short spells of extreme rainfall and populations near the Ravi and Chenab may be affected."

THE EXODUS OF 2008: Course-changing rivers like the Kosi cause havoc almost every year


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

AP was deaf to flood warnings

State Ignored CWC Reminders On Dam Capacity

New Delhi: The flooding of Kurnool could have been averted had successive state governments in Andhra Pradesh not avoided repeated reminders of the Central Water Commission (CWC) on doubling the spillway capacity of the Srisailam dam. 

    Since 1990, the CWC had advised the state government twice to increase the spillway capacity of the reservoir on the Krishna river from the originally set 13.5 lakh cusecs to 25 lakh cusecs in order to avoid flash floods. 
    CWC chairman A K Bajaj told TOI on Tuesday that while the agency had told state authorities sometime in 1990 to increase the spillway capacity of the dam from 13.5 lakh cusecs to 19 lakh cusecs, another detailed study was carried out in 2005 when officials found that the design of the dam allowed the capacity to be increased to 25 lakh cusecs. "We had conveyed to the state government to increase the capacity and it would have taken them not more than six months to a year to carry out the required modification," Bajaj said. "At least Kurnool and many upstream areas could have been saved from being inundated. Only the downstream areas, at worse, could have got affected," Bajaj said. Inflows into the Krishna at Srisailam had increased to more than 25 lakh cusecs after October 2 when Karnataka released fresh waters from the Almatti dam to prevent submergence of its own towns. 
    Bajaj said the CWC would soon have a meeting with state authorities and the 2005 report will be taken up for discussion. He said though the state alone could decide when to carry out modification in the dam, the CWC would emphasise on increasing the maximum flood capacity of Srisailam reservoir.

WATER WORLD: Villagers help an elderly woman stuck in flood waters in Guntur on Tuesday. A 50-ft breach on a river embankment at Oleru has left more than 25 villages inundated. The death toll in the devastating floods in Andhra Pradesh rose to 63 on Tuesday even as the situation improved and outflows from Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar projects were being reduced gradually


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