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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fires keep officials busy, hamper inspection of buildings in city

Fires in Mumbai buildings are no longer rare. The Mumbai fire brigade received around 7,500 calls for blazes, both major and minor, in the past two years. By contrast, BMC records show the fire brigade has inspected just 6,838 of the 2.9 lakh buildings in the city since October 2012. Of these, 4,453 have been sent notices for violations of fire safety rules.What is alarming is that only seven buildings have faced prosecution, the most recent being Lotus Business Park in Andheri where a fireman with the Borivli fire station lost his life.

Most recently , an inspection report into the December 15 blaze at Mumbai Central found several inadequacies in its fire prevention preparedness. A major tragedy was averted when firemen doused a blaze in the 21-storey railway quarters located opposite Mumbai Central railway station in one hour. Over a dozen of the 60 people evacuated had to be hospitalized. A few suffered serious burns and will need surgery. Currently, officials involved in routine fire-fighting themselves inspect buildings and slap notices. Other than highrises, they check malls and multiplexes. Officials admit that attending to fire calls makes regular inspection of structures difficult.

Keeping this in mind, the department is now working towards setting up an inspection cell that comprises 99 officials whose only duty would be to inspect buildings and slap notices if norms are flouted and prosecute those responsible.

"This inspection cell should be fully operational after December 2015. It would have 99 staffers, of whom 33 would be station officers and 66 assista nt station officers. They would not be engaged in routine firefighting and only serve notices when required, follow up on them and prosecute wherever the need be," said P S Rahangdale, deputy chief fire officer.

There are also plans to set up a computerized database, which would have all details regarding inspections and notices served. The department plans to emphasize on bi-annual inspection, once the software is in place.

"According to the Maharashtra Fire Protection and Safety Act, a society should submit an inspection report once every six months in January and July , which does not happen. We are, therefore, working towards a system that would send an SMS or email to the concerned building when an inspection is to be done biannually and has not been done," said a senior officer. Officials target December 2015 to make both the inspection cell and the computer database operational. A former chief fire officer, though, said the department does not have enough staffers to handle the increasingly vertical highrises.


The fire brigade move to have a separate cell for only inspecting buildings and prosecuting the laggards has been overdue. In a city that refuses to learn from examples (there have been quite a few major high-rise fires), prosecution is the only solution. But inspection and prosecution must be even-handed; allegations of corruption will make it another much-hated sarkari procedure that will be looked at as just another money-making tool for a section of officials.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Firemen douse blaze in highrise in Mumbai Central, no casualties

3 Need Surgery; Fire & Smoke Spread Via Duct
A major tragedy was averted at Mumbai Central on Monday morning when fire-fighters were able to douse a blaze in the 21-storey railway quarters opposite the station in an hour without any casualties. But over a dozen of the 60 people evacuated had to be hospitalized; a few received serious burns and will need surgery.

The fire brigade received an SOS around 11.15am and tenders from several fire stations like Worli, Byculla and Bhendi Bazaar were rushed to the ground-plus-21-floors building known to be over two decades old. Though equipped with sprinklers and extinguishers, none of the equipment worked indicating poor maintenance and awareness.

Fire officials said preliminary reports indicate the flames started in a service duct in the shaft of the staircase, which was encroached upon by old furniture, among other things.

Unconfirmed reports said the fire started from a stove in a servant quarters on the fourth floor. The servant quarters on the fourth floors were the worst hit.

"The fire started spreading from one of the mid-level floors and went upwards and downwards simultaneously through the duct. However, it spread towards the top floors with higher intensity. We immediately started rescuing people through the stairway and also through our ladders outside," said P S Rahangdale, the deputy chief fire officer.

The fire was doused in an hour but cooling operations continued till 3pm. Every floor in the building is known to have two apartments and two servant quarters which are outhouses as well. As the duct was closer to the servant quarters, those living in them were more affected. The smoke spread quickly after the fire started, making it difficult for those in the top floors to breathe. "Initially a few of the residents were extremely afraid, but we managed to bring them all down safely," said Rahangdale.

As many as 14 persons had to be rushed to the nearby BYL Nair and Jagjivan Ram hospitals. Of the seven taken to Nair hospital, three had sustained serious burns. "They will require surgery. The patients have sustained around 10-18% burns. All are stable and have been kept under observation," said dean Dr Ramesh Bharmal. Six patients admitted to the Jagjivan Ram hospital were discharged by evening. "Patients had discomfort due to smoke inhalation. Only one patient has been kept under observation," said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, Western Railway.

Residents were relieved a major tragedy had been avert ed. An officer who lives on the 18th floor said he was at work when he got a call from a help who was in the building.

"I was told there was smoke and a fire had broken out. I rushed to the building. I am glad everyone has been brought out safely and there has not been a calamity."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Five Indian cos in global list of firms fighting climate change

Have Moved On To Low-Carbon Growth Path, Says Report
At the time when the government is exploring various options to move on to a low-carbon growth path, five Indian companies have made it to the global list of firms that have shown leadership in adopting measures to cut their climate-damaging emissions.

The list reveals which companies around the world are doing the most to combat climate change.

It has 187 companies from across the globe that illustrate that a low-carbon future does not mean low profit. Most of the companies performing better in terms of their efforts to combat climate change are in Europe, followed by the US and Japan.

The Indian companies that made it to the list -CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014--are: Essar Oil, Larsen & Toubro, Tech Mahindra, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro. This new global index has been prepared by the CDP-an international not-for-profit organization -at the behest of 767 investors who represent more than a third of the world's invested capital. The CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) is the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share vital environmental information. "Awarded an `A' grade for their performance, they (the companies in the list) earn a position on the first global ranking of corporate efforts to mitigate climate change", said the organization in a statement while releasing the report comprising the names of the companies and the parametersmethodology followed on Wednesday.

It said, "Collectively the climate performance leaders have reduced their total (absolute) emissions by 33 million metric tons in the past reporting year, equivalent to turning London's car owners into cyclists for twoand-a-half years".

Paul Simpson, chief executive officer of CDP said, "The businesses that have made it onto our first ever global list of climate performance leaders are to be congratulated for their progress; they debunk economic arguments against reducing emissions. However, global emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate.Businesses and governments must raise their climate ambition."

"The data shows that there is neither an excuse nor the time for lethargy," he added. The India 2014 report titled "Indian companies decouple business growth from carbon emissions" reveals that energy efficiency is the key means by which companies are acting on climate change.

"Over 60% of surveyed companies are introducing process energy efficiency initiatives, consequently, 24% have reduced their absolute emissions and an additional 26% have reduced their emissions intensity while driving business growth and profitability", said the report.

The report that analyzed the responses from the top 200 Indian companies by market capitalization found that the companies are now better at identifying and prioritizing the climate change issues they want to actively manage.

The occasion also saw release of the CDP India 200 Climate Change Report 2014, showing how the Indian companies are using their increased commitment to climate change action to drive innovative sustainable businesses processes.

According to the report, the Indian companies expressed their eagerness to engage with the government to keep abreast with regulatory changes.

This will ensure that they can take necessary precautions and proactively maintain their competitive advantage and brand image.


Friday, October 3, 2014

CHANGEMAKERS HEALTH - Frontline fighters in good health crusade

Across India, battles are being fought and won to deliver efficient healthcare. Here's a look at some steps taken by people and NGOs who've won a Social Impact Award
Building trust and boosting tribal development

Bangalore: Thirty-four years ago, some doctors and activists trekked deep into the forests of Karnataka's BR Hills in Yelandur Taluk, 180km from Bangalore, to reach medical help to tribal set tlements.

They found only old people and leprosy-affected children. The rest had fled in fear of the disease. The team led by Dr Sudarshan stayed back and ensured the tribals overcame their fear and approached them for help. This formed the genesis of Karuna Trust, winner of the TOI Social Impact Awards for 2012. Today , the trust has transformed foul-smelling primary health centres (PHCs) into pleasant facilities."It implemented a PPP model leveraging government investment in public health infrastructure complementing it with a not-for-profit, competent management team," said Sudarshan, honorary secretary of the trust. As many as 13 Karuna Trust managed PHCs in Karnataka were granted ISO 9001:2008 certification.

Innovations like repositioning of family planning, distributing birthing kits and baby warmers helped reduce maternal and infant deaths. Sudarshan says "the challenges and changing dynamics in the sector have made us stronger and helped us stay grounded."

Sudarshan launched Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK), a movement for integrated tribal development. An eight-bed hospital was started in BR Hills. Realizing that healthcare alone was not enough, VGKK formed the Karuna Trust in 1986 to provide education and help marginalized people. TNN

Boon of flood-proof handpumps

Bahraich: Every year, floods put people here to the test. They struggle for food and water. Food packets are para-dropped as the Ghaghra burst its banks. But safe drinking water is a challenge easier met because of flood-proof hand pumps installed at many places in the district.

These are normal pumps installed in 2010-11 by the local administration on concrete by the local administration on concrete platforms using NREGA funds. The 2.5-3.75-metre platforms ensure the hand-pumps don't go under water easily. This serves two purposes -guaran tee safe drinking water and serve as permanent structures that help people find a place to toehold when everything else floats.

Former DM Rigzin Sampleal led the project that proved effective in the 2011 floods and thereafter. It bagged the 2011 TOI Social Impact Award. Ghaghra's fury engulfed the city this year too. Once again, the hand-pumps came in handy .A visit to marooned Gangapurva village in Mahasi tehsil proved the point. Of its 10 flood-proof hand-pumps, seven were working.

"This year flood water swelled to over two meters in places. One hand-pump went under.Two others were partially inundated. The rest seven worked as usual," said Ghan Shyam, subdivisional magistrate, Mahasi. Some of these 1,000 hand-pumps were installed in villages along motorable roads. People in the interior villages waded through the submerged link roads to fetch safe drinking water.

"Team work helped. A villager sug gested the idea, which the administra tion implemented with help from headmen and officers," says Sampheal, now posted as special secretary to UP CM Akhilesh Yadav .

The Elevated Flood-Proof Bahraich Model hand-pumps are installed two to four meters above ground. When the river breaches, people come on boats to fetch water from these pumps.Today , it's recommended by the National Disaster Management Authority and replicated by several districts on pilot basis. TNN

The silent observer that helped save many a girl child

Kolhapur: In June, Kolhapur's sex ratio crossed 900, an adverse number that a unique technological initiative, painstakingly implemented, corrected in five years.

In 2008, then Kolhapur collector Laxmikant Deshmukh got ultrasound machines in the city to fix a device that recorded sonography images and linked them to an online portal, `save the baby girl'. An awareness drive was launched, doctors asked to fill in details of each pregnancy case they received.Within three years, the drive instilled fear among families wanting to check a fetus's sex.In 2011, Deshmukh won the TOI Social Impact award for the initiative. Two years later, the state scrapped the model, and asked doctors to file online details on sonography machine use. By then, the award had given the model national recognition, which encouraged the city's medical fraternity to embrace it.

"The award boosted the morale of the administration and those in the project. Other states approached the Kolhapur administration for details and implemented it," says Deshmukh. The silent observer model was replicated in Rajasthan, Goa, MP and it got implemented in 200 districts across the country . Kolhapur's medical fraternity still uses it, despite annual maintenance cost ranging between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh. "Kolhapur had become notorious after the 2001 Census, when sex ratio dropped to 829. The silent observer device changed everything," said Ajit Patil, senior Kolhapur gynaecologist. TNN

Changing the face of ambulance services

When it bagged the TOI Social Impact award in 2012, Ziqitza was already a superstar in the country's emergency medical aid sector.Its ambulance services operated locally in Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab and Orissa. Mobile medical units brought healthcare to the less accessible regions of J&K, Kerala and Jharkhand, working with states and corporate entities. Ambulances were equipped with life support, paramedics, resuscitation kits, oxygen cylinders and defibrillators. Free clinics, staffed by a medical team, conducted awareness programmes. Two years on, 1,200 Zi qitza ambulances operate across 18 states, providing medical care to about "3.2 million, delivering over 8,000 babies on board", says co-founder and CEO Sweta Mangal.The organization continues to grow.

"When we started in 2004, the (ambulance) industry didn't exist," says Mangal. "We were one of a few organized players." The team, which included her, Shaffi Mather, Naresh Jain, Ravi Krishna and Manish Sancheti, worked closely with the government to ensure standards were established. "Earlier, anybody could buy a vehicle, put a stretcher inside and call themselves an ambulance service." There was no accredited course for paramedics, and dialling 102 (ambulance service number) often connected you to the cremation grounds. TNN Its services proved invaluable when Cyclone Phailin hit Orissa last year. Ambulances transported the injured and also food. "Everything else was shut but we were on high alert. A baby was born in an ambulance, he was named Phailin," recalls Mangal. The organisation made it to the Limca Book of Records last year, for their free, first-aid responder training workshops. Over 5,000 participants were trained in a year, across school and colleges in Punjab. TNN






Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New toll rates chaos, holiday rush cause 7-km snarls

Lack of information and the resultant confusion over the revised toll rates, which came into effect from Tuesday midnight, led to massive traffic snarls at the five toll plazas as motorists argued with the staffers on Wednesday . What compounded the problem was the rush of people heading out of the city to enjoy the extended weekend--from October 2 to 6.

"Between 9am and 11am, which are peak hours, vehicles were backed up over a 7-km stretch on the Sion-Panvel Highway from Nerul flyover till the Vashi toll plaza as most motorists argued over the revised rates," said police inspector Shirish Pawar of the Vashi traffic unit in-charge. The five entry points to Mumbai saw bumper-to-bumper traffic on all the arterial roads and highways leading to the toll plazas on Wednesday as commuters argued with toll staff over increased fare.

"We had to convince the toll plaza management to allow 70-80 vehicles to pass without paying the charges as the queues were getting longer and longer. Only then, were we able to ease the traffic movement on the lanes heading towards Mumbai," said inspector Shirish Pawar, Vashi traffic unit in-charge.

The snarl left regular commuters coming to Mumbai in a soup. "At Vashi, it took me almost one hour to cross the toll plaza," said Amay Khade, a Navi Mumbai resident. Traffic was crawling at Dahisar and Airoli too. Many took to social networking sites to warn about the traffic snarls at the toll booths.

But a Mumbai Entry Points Ltd (MEPL) spokesperson said, "We have deployed ade quate additional manpower to handle the toll collection in a swift manner." He said they had also made available sufficient quantity of Rs 5 coins and notes to tackle the demand for change. "Toll rates are revised every three years since 2002 as per the decision taken by the government," the spokesperson added.

MEPL has been assigned the contract of collecting toll at Vashi, Airoli, Mulund (Eastern Express Highway), Mulund (LBS Road), and Dahisar.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heart disease hits Indians early, diabetes, high BP make it worse

Study By US Assn Covers 85,000 PatientsAlmost 70% Suffer From Hypertension And 10% Have Heart Problems
In the Indian pool of heart patients, almost every second patient has high blood pressure, every fourth has diabetes and every fifth had plaque deposits in his her arteries.

This scientific picture of Indian heart diseases, at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is touring the US, comes from the American College of Cardiology's newly set up study centres across India. ACC is a not-forprofit medical association th at works out guidelines for cardiac treatment which are invariably followed globally.

The ongoing study provided data of 85,295 patients who clocked 2.11 lakh visits to out-patient departments of 15 hospitals from Mumbai to Patna over the last 26 months.Of these patients--from both urban centres and rural areas--60,836 were found to have heart disease.

"In capturing all-India data, this is one of the most scientific studies,'' said Dr Prafulla Kerkar, the head of Parel's KEM Hospital's cardiology department. He is also the chairperson of ACC's Pin nacle registry's India Quality Improvement Programme.

In the backdrop of World Heart Day on Monday , the ACC data underlines that the average age of a heart patient in India is 52 years. "If one looks at ACC's American registry , the average age is much higher in the sixties.Clearly , Indians get hit with heart disease much earlier,'' said Dr Ganesh Kumar, cardiologist at Hiranandani Hospital in Powai and vicechairperson of the study .

The ACC study , for the first time, shows how badly diabetes affects the Indian heart. It provides the breakup of the 13,077 patients with diabetes who visited the 15 centres a total of 35,441 times. Here, we found a doubling of the diseases. For instance, 32% of the diabetic patients had narrowed arteries or coronary artery disease. Almost 10% of them had heart failure and 70% had hypertension. The corresponding numbers for non-diabetic patients are half,'' said Dr Kumar.

He said the actual number of diabetic patients with heart complications would run into millions."The amount of time and money lost due to treatment would not only be high for a particular family, but it would translate into a huge economic burden for the country as well. In fact, this is what the US is going through today with the increasing number of heart failure patients,'' he added.

Heart failure and atrial fibrillations are two relatively new heart conditions that Indian doctors have begun tracking."The ACC data provides an insight into the type of patients walking into our heart clinics,'' said Dr Kerkar. "If more centres across India are roped in to maintain data of heart disease, then we can understand the complete nature of our heart burden.We will be able to design better heart health policies,'' he added.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

India suicide capital with 2.6L casesyr, a third of global total

India records by far the largest number of suicides in the world, accounting for nearly a third of the global total and more than twice as many as China, which is second on the list. India also has the highest rate of suicides among young people--those aged 15 to 29 years.

These were among the sobering facts revealed in a report released by the WHO, "Preventing Suicide, A Global Imperative". The report noted that an estimated 8 lakh suicide deaths occurred worldwide in 2012. It is the second leading cause of death in the 1529 age group.

India in 2012 recorded nearly 2.6 lakh suicides, dwarfing China's 1.2 lakh.Its overall rate of suicides (incidents per lakh population) was 12th at 20.9. The worst countries on this parameter were North and South Korea, Guyana, Lithuania and Sri Lanka. Hungary, Japan, the Russian Federation and Belarus also had higher suicide rates than India. The Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway and Denmark--often perceived as societies with high suicide rates--had much lower rates.

In richer countries, three times as many men commit suicide as women, but in low and middle-income countries, the male-to-female ratio is much lower at 1.5 men to each woman.

Globally, suicides account for 50% of all violent deaths in men and 71% in women. Only in Iraq and Indonesia was the proportion of women to men among those committing suicide higher than in these countries.

India, despite its horrific statistics, has actually seen a decline in the tendency to commit suicide since 2012, with the rate declining by 9.2% over this 12-year period.

China, in the same period, saw its suicide rate drop by 59%.

India is a clear exception to the global pattern of the 70+ age group having the highest suicide rates. At 21.1 per lakh population, suicides among this age group are only about as common as among the entire population.

The report revealed that ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally. It also listed various risk factors that contribute to suicides.

Risk factors associated with the health system and society at large include difficulties in accessing health care and in receiving the care needed, easy availability of the means for suicide, inappropriate media reporting that sensationalizes suicide and increases the risk of "copycat" suicides, and stigma against people who seek help for suicidal behaviours, or for mental health and substance abuse problems.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New project aims to track and treat 20,000 `silent' TB patients by 2017

The city's two-yearold tuberculosis control programme has got another booster shot. In a bid to draw out `silent' patients who delay getting a diagnosis, medical vouchers for free medicines and diagnostic tests are being made available.

In a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by international NGO PATH, patients with cough living in slums or poor localities will get the voucher to gently prod them to undergo an X-ray .The programme, called the Private Provider Interface Agency (PPIA), will focus on the 12 wards identified as highrisk for TB and cover almost 9 million people.

"During our interactions with doctors, we found they are reluctant to mention TB to patients on their first visit and choose instead to write out antibiotics for their persistent cough," said Dr Arun Bamne, who is a consultant with the BMC for the TB control programme. The patient feels better because the antibiotics check the tuberculosis for some time, but the problem invariably returns, at times in a potent form.

The PPIA programme will try to break this cycle, said PATH project director Dr Shibu Vijayan. "The vouchers, which are being used in the Indian public health sphere for the first time, will act as an incentive," said Dr Vijayan, adding that the same programme is being implemented in Mehsana, Gujarat, and in Patna, Bihar. In Mumbai, the aim is to draw 20,000 more patients into the programme by 2017.

The city received the first booster dose for TB control in 2012 when reports of totally drug-resistant TB cases cropped up for the first time.The Union government immediately released special funds, granted hi-tech infrastructure and drew up a special plan for Mumbai. As a result, detection rates soared, with the number of drug-resistant cases climbing to almost 3,700 in the last two years.

"Despite the best effort and services, the public health system at best draws 50-60% of the targeted population. There is a huge population that prefers the private sector," said BMC's TB officer Dr Minni Khetrapal. As the private sector doesn't follow standard protocols, it is feared not all patients get equal or right treatment."Using programmes such as the PPIA, we want to be able to cover 100% of the population," added the doctor.

To start with, the pro gramme has identified 40 small and medium hospitals where the voucher can be used. "Patients who go to informal doctors with complaint of cough will be sent for a free X-ray at the nearest hub hospital we have identified," said Dr Vijayan. If the X-ray shows worrisome signs, the patient will be sent for a subsidized GeneXpert scan, costing barely Rs 500 as against the Rs 1,500 in other labs.

"If the GeneXpert test shows the patient has normal TB, he can use the voucher to buy free medicines for up to six months from a chemist," said Dr Bamne. If the GeneXpert shows the patient has drugresistant TB, he will be inducted into the BMC-run free treatment programme. The BMC gets medicines, costing Rs 2-5 lakh for each patient, from the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August sees 4th lowest rainfall since 2000

Entire Month Records Only 418MM
After witnessing an arid June and a record-breaking rain in July , Santa Cruz has gone back to a dry August. If the rainfall figures for the month are anything to go by , then August could hold the title for recording the fourth lowest rain of around 418mm since the year 2000.Weathermen opine that the "break monsoon", a phenomenon that is known to be present every monsoon season, has lasted longer this year, thus giving August less rain though the island city and the sub urbs witnessed moderate to heavy showers on Saturday .

June this year recorded very meager rain of barely 87.3mm while July rainfall was abundant and the suburbs were seen record ing 1468.7mm of rain. But since the beginning of August itself the rain during the entire month was not as expected considering the July rains had built high expectations.Throughout the month of August one saw a few occasional spells of rain occurring in the suburbs and island city.

V K Rajeev, director of the regional meteorological department in Mumbai said, " August has witnessed subdued rainfall activity and no active weather systems were seen, which are known to give the city rain. The break monsoon phenomenon does not last for any fixed period of time. However this year the monsoons are yet to revive from it."

Since 2000, less rainfall in the month of August was recorded in the year 2013, 2012 and 2009. Meanwhile August 2010 recorded the highest rain of 1036.5mm in the past 14 years. August 17 of the same year had received the highest one day rainfall with 158.2mm Even the first day of Ganpati did not witness not much rainfall and in the 24 hours from August 29 to 30, one saw Colaba record 4mm of rain and Santa Cruz 2.4mm.

A few spells of rain or thundershowers have been forecast for the next 24 hours--from August 30 afternoon onwards. So far out of the season's required rainfall during the four months of monsoons, the island city has already received 85.88% of the rain while the suburbs have recorded 88.46% of the rain required.

However, the seven lakes that supply water to the city have a good stock so far with 13.62lakh million litres. This is the highest water stock the city has as on date if compared to the past five years. The reason for it could also be the addition of one more lake namely Middle Vaitarana, which alone has contributed to 1.93 lakh million litres of water to the total water stock.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Grain bowl staring at severe drought

Rain Deficit Grew In Last 20 Days, May Not Improve
The failure of the monsoon over large parts of the country in August has raised the spectre of 2014 being declared a drought year.

As of Thursday , the overall deficit was 18%, with ab out 36% of the meteorological subdivisions facing moderate to severe drought.

A drought year is declared when the nationwide monsoon shortfall is more than 10%, and 20% to 40% of the country faces drought conditions. Rain Spotting, P 15 India's grain bowl belt of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under a severe drought, with a major monsoon bailout looking unlikely at least in the next week or so.

Punjab and Haryana have run up rain deficits of 65% and 66%, respectively, and are currently the only two states where rainfall has been categorized as `scanty' -that is, 40% or less than normal since the onset of monsoon on June 1.Western UP is only slightly better with a current shortfall of 58%.

IMD defines severe drought in a subdivision if it recieves less than 50% of normal rainfall.

In at least 26 districts across this belt, rainfall has been less than 30% of normal. This includes Barnala in Punjab which has received just 10% rain and Rohtak which was got 11%.

While IMD had predicted that the region would end up with the worst rain deficit in the country, the situation turned critical in the last 20 days. This is when the monsoon weakened, including a seven-day spell from August 15 when it went into a break because of a sustained weather disturbance in the Indian Ocean.

During this weak phase, central and northwest India went largely dry while the east, northeast and the coastal belt continued to get rain. The rain deficit in central India grew. But in Punjab, Haryana and western UP, an already bad monsoon year became worse.

The outlook for the next week or so doesn't look too good. "While this region received scattered rains on Thursday due to the southward shift of the monsoon trough, there is at the moment no strong system in the vicinity that can cause persistent rain," said B P Yadav, director, IMD.

Met officials said a substantial dent in the rain deficit of northwest India can come only if a succession of low pressure systems forms in the Bay of Bengal strong enough to reach so far inland. Thus far, these systems mainly benefitted central India during the active monsoon phase from mid-July to August first week.

The growing deficit has belied IMD's expectations as well. The department in its latest monsoon forecast barely a month ago, had predicted near normal rains for August and September. While downgrading the overall monsoon forecast to 87% (from 93% predicted earlier), it said the two months together were likely to get 95% rainfall of the long term average (with a model error of 8%).

That forecast appears optimistic now. As of August 28, the all India weighted average rainfall for the month stands at 207.9mm against a normal of 261mm for the entire month. This means the deficit, with three days of the month remaining, stands at more than 20%. The rain gap in northwest India as a whole, stands at 34%.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Indians' craving for salt leading to a rising number of strokes in country

Restricting It Must Be Part Of Policy Planning, Say Docs
Almost 1.65 million people across the world die due to heart problems brought on by excess intake of salt, said a research analyzing populations from 187 countries.

The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on Thursday, found that the average consumption of salt across the globe was 3.95gm per day , nearly double the 2gm recommended by the World Health Organization.

A separate Indian study released a few days ago--the INDIAB study of the Indian Council for Medical Research--found that the mean salt intake in urban India was 7.6gm per day , much higher than the global mean.

"It is well known that salt or sodium is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke," said endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi, one of the lead authors of the INDIAB study .
Considering that one in four Indian adults suffers from high blood pressure, one can gauge the extent of heart problems caused by salt.

The highlight of NEJM's study , conducted by a 100-member team of academicians led by Tufts University , is that it's the first to quantify the effect of excess sodium on cardiovascular diseases. The final conclusion was that in 2010 alone, around 1.65 million across the world suffered fatal heart problems aggravated by their high sodium intake.

To arrive at the conclusion, the study--funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--analyzed existing data from 205 surveys of sodium intake in 66 countries. The effects of sodium on blood pressure and of blood pressure on cardiovascular diseases were determined separately . The researchers then combined these findings with the current rates of cardiovascular diseases around 187 countries to estimate the number of cardiovascular deaths attributable to sodium consumption above 2gm per day .

"This important study reiterates that excess salt intake is equivalent to tobacco intake in terms of human disease and death. India ranks high on the list of countries with excess salt intake and resultant cardiovascular disease and deaths," said senior Delhi-based endocrinologist Dr Anoop Misra. He felt that a reduction in salt intake is not possible without legal restrictions and policy changes. "Salt restriction should be at the top of health policy planning to contain hypertension and heart disease," he added.

The INDIAB study on the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in India published two weeks ago found that Indians have a "salt-preponderance". "We crave salt. We not only reach for packed namkeen stuff and dishes high on salt, we also take hidden salt in pickles, papads, etc," said Joshi.

The explosion of hypertension in the country is higher than diabetes.
"The number of Indians suffering stroke is rising. One of the causes is our high salt intake," said Joshi.

The NEJM study found that four out of five global deaths attributable to higher than recommended sodium intakes occurred in middleand low-income countries. The research team also said the 1.65 million deaths meant that nearly one in 10 of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide was due to higher salt ingestion. It concluded that strong policies are needed to reduce dietary sodium across the world.

Maha On Sodium High The INDIAB study of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released data last fortnight, showing the mean salt intake in urban areas was significantly higher than that in the rural areas (7.6gm per day against 6.8gm per day).

The mean salt intake was highest in Chandigarh (8.3gm per day), followed by Maharashtra (7.2gm per day), Tamil Nadu (6.8gm per day) and Jharkhand (5.9gm per day).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

1 in 5 patients of rain-related ills runs fever, gets infections

Insurance claims for monsoon-related diseases have been steadily rising, with fever--that trivial sounding symptom of many diseases--emerging as the single most common reason. One medical insurance company claimed that infectious diseases or monsoon-related ailments--ranging from viral fever to typhoid--made up for almost a third of all its claims.

Seeking medical insur ance reimbursements is no longer limited to emergencies of the heart and brain; come monsoon, claims for infectious diseases take centre stage.

V Jagannathan from Star Health and Allied Insurance Co said there is a notable spike in claims due to infectious and vector-borne diseases during monsoon.

Data available from ICICI Lombard General Insurance, one of the largest insurers, showed treatment costs over three years have jumped for most monsoon-related ailments. "The average claim for fever and common infections has increased by around 20% per annum," said ICICI Lombard's Sanjay Datta.

Statistics show one in five patients down with rainrelated illnesses suffered from fever along with infections.
Around one in seven such seasonal patients sought hospitalization for gastroenteritis.

ICICI Lombard's Sanjay Datta said while the average claim for treating fever and common infections has risen 20% per annum, the treatment cost for respiratory tract infections rose 18% and 12% in 2012 and 2013, respectively .

The data shows the maximum claimants are either from the pediatric age group or the most productive 26 to 35 years bracket. "Over 3,000 claims in the last three years came from those in the 26-35 age group and over 1,500 for the 0-5 age group," said Datta.

George C (name changed) was last week surprised to get a bill of Rs 90,000 for his father's hospitalization, which included a two-day stay in the ICU. " After tens of tests, the doctors told me his blood pressure fluctu ations were the result of an infection," he said. George is worried how he would have footed the bill for fever if not for his insurance policy.

Doctors say this increase in the cost of treating monsoon-related illnesses is mainly a reflection of the patient's delay in seeking treatment. "Most cases

of fever or even malaria don't need hospitalization. It is only when the symptoms cannot be controlled for three to four days that the doctor advises hospitalization. Hospitalization means it's serious and needs insurance cover," said Dr Gustad Daver, medical director of Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital in south Mumbai. Incidentally, most rain ailments haven't yet seen a spike this year. "We are seeing the usual number of malaria, dengue and typhoid, but there isn't a surge yet. Leptospirosis is the only disease that seems to have increased," said intensivist Dr Khusrav Bajan from Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Message from all faiths is loud and clear: It's the biggest act of giving

`Donating Organs Can Help Overcome Death Anxiety, Make People Feel Better Connected With Life'
Religious beliefs are considered one of the biggest hurdles preventing people from donating organs. Yet, a look at how different faiths view the giving of organs -to save and improve lives -calls the bluff on this perception.

Truth is most religions are open and straightforward on the issue.
The Puranas, for instance, cite many instances of people cheerfully donating their body parts organs. In Peria Purana, Kananappa Nayanar offers his eyes to Lord Shiva.

Despite this, many are worried that donating organs may impact the soul. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says: "Do not worry about the soul.
You'll certainly not be born blind in your next life if you pledge your eyes after death this time."

Sri Sri labours on the point that organ donation is a "sacred offering, a noble gesture". People are often misled by `beliefs' (read superstitions) that have no space in any religion, he says. " As far as belief systems go, if religion contradicts science, go with science."

He invokes the Gita to explain.
"What does Krishna say in the Bhagvad Gita? In the last chapter (Chapter 18, Verse 63), he says: If you are faced with a challenge or doubt, think over it. If your logic accepts it, accept it. Ponder over it fully , then do as you like." Expounding the power of reason, Sri Sri urges followers to heed Krishna's words to Arjuna on the battlefield: "Reason it out, discuss it, think about it in entirety , don't leave any aspect out. Then do as you like."

In short, if logically you are comfortable donating organs, do not let vague religiosity influence you.

Sri Sri suggests a scientific approach to religion. The underlying point being: We should make ourselves useful and of service, in life and death. As far as belief systems go -if religion contradicts science, science should prevail.

"You donate your organs after death for someone's benefit -this is scientific; there's nothing wrong in it," says Sri Sri. "If your religion says, you'll go to hell if you donate your organs, I'd say: Stick to science.
Not only has the recipient of the organ benefited, but also his family and community . When a blind person gets to see, he becomes independent, confident and is able to help himself and others."

Continuous Charity Organ donation is an act of value worthy of reward. In fact, some religions say an artificial transplant is no substitute for a natural organ transplant.

In Islam, organ donation is believed to be sadqa jariyah, that is, continuous charity . For example, if a blind person receives another's eyes after the person's death and can see, that is sadqa jariyah, because even after death the benefits from his donation continue to be received by another. Organ donation signifies living with the spirit of compassion, say scholars. The donor loses nothing, but gives others something precious -the gift of life. There is a saying: `The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation'. This could well apply to organ donation.
The Big Connect Spiritually speaking, when deciding to pledge organs some have reported experiencing a larger connect with humanity . By pledging their organs, they say it's easier to de-link themselves from the body and focus on the soul.

A Delhi psychologist recounts his experience in dealing with the ageing. "We tend to be possessive about our physical form," and the very thought that our bodies will be cut post-death and body parts utilised to give life to others can be repulsive and scary . Yet, as we mature, psychological wellbeing is heavily dependent on the ability to extend ourselves beyond the self and body .

"Till the time we are obsessed and identified exclusively with our body , we remain anxious about ageing and mortality . Donating organs in reality can help overcome death anxiety . A 71-year-old gentleman was depressed by the idea of death. Once he decided to donate his organs and told his family , he reported positive changes in his personality. He lost his preoccupation with illness, and his fear of death reduced.
He became calm and joyful. He began to say , `When I think that my organs will give life to someone, I don't feel alone. I feel connected to life. I find myself as part of a large chain or web of life.' " Then there's the story of a teacher whose doctor went out of his way to treat him though the teacher couldn't pay his bills. The teacher felt grateful and to express this, decided that rather than subject his body to useless rituals post-death, it should be given to a medical college to help students become good doctors. Noble cause, yes, but as leading theologists say , it's still not easy.

On God's Duty A lighter take on the Bible says Adam was perhaps the first organ donor -after all, "God took a rib out of Adam and created Eve" (Genesis 2:21). Christianity views organ donation not only as a moral deed, but also as commendable, even recommending it as a religious duty .

At the forefront in pushing the issue, have been the papal heads.
"Transplants are a great step forward in science's service of humankind.... There is need to instil in peo ple's hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine appreciation of the need for love that can find expression in deciding to become an organ donor," said late Pope John Paul II in August 2000, adding that systems and regulations must be in place so that organ donation does not get commercialized.

The Catholic Church teaches: "Organ transplants are in conformity with moral law... Pledging one's organs to be donated after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his next of kin hasn't given explicit consent. It is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even to delay the death of others."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: "Organ donation is a special form of witness to love.... In a period like ours, often marked by various forms of selfishness, it is ever more urgent to understand how the logic of free giving is vital to a correct conception of life.... As Jesus taught us, only whoever gives one's own life can save it (Luke 9:24)."

Grow With Religion There was a time when Jewish law prohibited organ donation and transplantation as procedures were not in place, or matters were still at an experimental stage. Today , that is not the case. Rabbis and scholars across the spectrum of Jewish life have upgraded their views on this.
Organ donation from a dead body is seen as an act of saving life, pikkuah nefesh. Organ donation from a living donor is fine too as long as it does not significantly risk the donor's life; then it is a mitzvah kiyumit, praiseworthy . One of the most compelling arguments for organ donation is the love, mercy and compassion involved in such an act. Saving a life is a fundamental imperative in Judaism, says Rabbi Malekar.

That said, all faiths advise abundant caution to ensure that organ donation retains the spirit of charity .
For that, education plays a big role, says Sri Sri, who has pledged his eyes. For starters, the family must be taken into confidence that one has pledged to donate an organ or organs so they can peacefully do the needful when it's time.


Chembur resident gets state’s first e-challan

A Chembur resident has become the first person in the state to be issued an e-challan. He was sent the challan for a traffic violation committed in Navi Mumbai, as his vehicle had stepped on the zebra crossing at the NRI Junction, Palm Beach Road. The offence was recorded on a CCTV at the crossing.

Traffic police surprised motorists with a quiet launch of the CCTV-based e-challan system in Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation's jurisdiction last month. The drive began with Palm Beach Road, where 24 cameras have been installed at nine locations. "We sent 15 e-challans through registered post. CCTV footage is

used to identify the car number and owner using data updated by the transport department,'' said DCP (traffic), Vijay Patil.

"E-challan will improve discipline among drivers," said K L Prasad, police commissioner,

Navi Mumbai. The city has 262 CCTVs and the police commissioner's office has asked the civic body to install another 400.

While the CCTVs capture traffic images in which the vehicle number is identified, the

command centre at the police commissioner's office takes a screenshot and also keeps the video clipping as evidence. An e-challan is prepared and posted with a covering letter from the traffic inspector. While the e-challan includes an image of the vehicle committing the violation, the covering letter provides details of the offence, the location and the option to pay a compounded fine or approach the court. At present, the fine can be paid at the CBD traffic chowky on the Sion-Panvel highway. It has to be paid within seven days from the receipt of the letter or the department forwards the case to the jurisdictional court at CBD Belapur.

"An online payment gateway will be soon be operational. The defaulter can then pay the fine online," added Patil.

"Delhi too has an evidencebased challan. I am sure it will enable greater compliance," said Rajesh Agarwal, the state government's principal secretary (IT), who chaired the CCTV committee.

45,000 Indians in countries hit by Ebola

As the Ebola fever death toll crossed 932, the government on Wednesday said 44,700 Indians were living in African countries affected by the virus and there was a possibility of them returning if the situation worsened. In a written statement in Parliament, health minister Harsh Vardhan said travellers coming from or transiting through affected countries to India would be tracked. The government also advised against non-essential travel to west Africa, the epicentre of the outbreak. P 14 Lagos: The death toll of the Ebola epidemic neared 1,000 on Wednesday as fears rose that the disease is now taking hold in Africa's most populous nation of Nigeria after a second death among seven cases in Lagos.

The spread of the disease comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) met in an emergency session in Geneva to decide whether to declare an international crisis.

The latest official toll across west Africa hit 932 deaths since the start of the year, it said on Wednesday , with 1,711 confirmed cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The death of a nurse in Lagos, a megacity of more than 20 million people, came as 45 deaths were confirmed across west Africa between Saturday and Monday , with aid agencies saying the terrifying tropical disease is out of control.

In Liberia's capital, Monrovia, where the dead have been left unburied on the streets or abandoned in their homes, Presi dent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed for divine intervention and ordered three days of fasting and prayer.

And in Sierra Leone, troops were sent to guard hospitals to "deter relatives and friends of Ebola patients from forcefully taking them from hospitals without medical consent", a presidential aide said.

Suspected Saudi patient dies in Jeddah hospital A Saudi national, who fell ill after returning from Sierra Leone, died early on Wednesday in his hospital isolation ward where he was being tested for the Ebola virus, said the Saudi health ministry. The 40-year-old returned on Sunday from Sierra Leone and was then hospitalized in Jeddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever. AP

Sunday, August 3, 2014

53 trees fell in 24 hrs due to rain last week, activists blame BMC

Last Wednesday turned out to be one of the worst days for Mumbai's green cover, with 53 big trees falling in a matter of 24 hours even as heavy downpour lashed the city.

Besides, the city loses an average of 15-20 trees every day. Experts blamed the civic body for the alarming rate at which trees are uprooted here, pointing out poor maintenance and the fact that the authorities did not give trees enough space to spread their roots by concretizing everything around it. Weak trees crashing down are also a threat to residents. On July 30, a 32-year-old man, Santosh Pande, died when a tree collapsed on him at Jogeshwari (E), where he had halted his bike to answer his cellphone.

He died on the spot.

"Trees these days are tilting and falling because they have no place to grow. With the authorities concretizing and

putting paver blocks really close to the roots, there is absolutely no space for the roots to spread themselves. It is important that at least one-metre area be left free around a tree.

But since that never happens, trees grow weak at the roots and fall. It is unfortunate that someone died because of that," said Stalin Dayanand, environmentalist and project director of NGO Vanashakti.

Sunish Subramanian,

founder of Plants and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), has a different view. "Many a time, developers deliberately damage the roots by pouring chemicals so that trees wither away after a few weeks. That way , they can clear the path for their parking lot or compound or entrance to a building," said Subramanian. He added that the BMC did plant thousands of saplings in the monsoon but no one knew about their survival rates. "No one knows what happens to that tree that have been planted or transplanted," he added.

Joint municipal commissioner S S Shinde, who is in charge of the gardens department, however, claimed that the BMC trimmed tree branches to avoid collapses.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Kosi flash flood fears prompt evacuations

Flood warnings were sounded in Bihar's Saharsa and Purnia divisions on Saturday , with people alerted between the east and west embankments of Kosi to move to safer places. This was after Saharsa district magistrate Shashi Bhushan Kumar made on-spot assessment of the danger to Kosi's embankments after heavy flow of water into the river from Nepal side.

A massive landslide took place on Saturday following heavy rain in Jhure in Sindhupalchok district in Nepal. The landslide is blocking the water flow into the Kosi and the authorities there, to prevent flooding, were planning to detonate the blockade. Should this happen, a sudden gush of water is inevitable which would flow down into an already swelling river on the Indian side.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu has informed the National Disaster Management Authority about the likely discharge of 25 lakh cusecs of water post blast. In either case, 40% of the discharge will gush into Bihar. The water will take about 12 hours to hit the Kosi barrage which has the capacity of sustaining pressure of only eight lakh cusecs. The flood, if it occurs, would affect a popula , tion of 1.5 lakh in Bihar's eight districts, including 50,000 peo ple in 22 panchayats of Supaul district alone. Bihar has begun to evacuate people from the vil lages within the embankment area in 22 panchayats of Supaul district and 7 other districts.

Cloudburst flattens over 30 houses

Dehradun: Over 30 houses were flattened by a cloudburst in remote Mori village in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district late Friday. However, there were no casualties as all villagers were away at the time of the incident, state chief secretary Subhash Kumar said on Saturday.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Court questions state's disaster preparedness

The Bombay high court on Thursday wondered if the state government has made any alternative arrangement to tackle natural disasters and questioned its preparedness while hearing a PIL on the destruction of wetlands and mangroves.

On March 10, the HC had ordered a total ban on reclamation and construction on wetlands in Maharashtra and for prompt action to be taken against violators on a PIL by NGO Vanashakti. The court's observations came after the report of the chief conservator of forests (mangroves) confirming that there is massive destruction of wetlands and mangroves in areas such as Dahisar, Vasai, Ghodbunder Road and Kalwa in Thane district and Uran in Raigad district.

Vanashakti's advocate Gayatri Singh told a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode that destruction continued and no action was being taken by the civic bodies. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board's advocate Sharmila Deshmukh said no authority was empo wered to take action against violators and even the Wetlands Authority, which has been set up recently, had no powers.

The judges also lamented the decline and destruction of greenery in areas such as Vasai and Ghodbunder Road. Justice Kanade said that on his way to the Maharashtra Judicial Academy at Uttan there was "massive destruction and construction of illegal bungalows". Justice Kode said Ghodbunder Road during his childhood "was considered to be better than Ratnagiri because of its greenery".

Referring to the landslide in Pune, the government's advocate G

W Mattos said it had happened due to deforestation. The judges also wondered what would happen to Mumbai if wetlands disappear. "Fortunately it is raining. The entire city of Mumbai will have to be evacuated if it does not rain for two years," said Justice Kanade.

The judges also questioning the government's preparedness to handle natural disasters. "What alternative arrangement the government has thought about?" asked Justice Kanade. Posting the hearing on August 7, 2014, the judges said "concrete solutions" will have to be found otherwise their orders "will remain merely on paper".

Day's rain gives city over a month's water supply

Santa Cruz, which recorded the lowest June rainfall in 63 years with a paltry 87.3mm, got 1468.7mm of rain in July the highest ever in the month since 1951. It surpassed even the 1,454.5mm recorded in July 2005, which included the downpour of 26/7. Moreover, rainfall received on July 30-31 in catchment areas has increased the city's water stock by 1.2 lakh million litres.

The low rainfall in June this year had become a matter of concern but it gathered pace in July. Rainfall in Santa Cruz since June 1 this year is 1,556mm, of which only 87.3mm was received in June.

V K Rajeev , director, Regional Meteorological Centre, Mumbai, said weather systems being different every year, rainfall could vary during the four monsoon months. "There are variations in systems and the distribution of rainfall varies every year. Currently , there is a low pressure trough, which is moving inwards and we have issued a forecast of heavy rainfall over the next 48 hours. This year the maximum quantum of rainfall so far was received in July," he said, denying rumors of a `cloudburst' which were doing the rounds on social media.

In the past decade, rainfall higher than 1,400mm was received only in 2005, which was the year of the deluge that sank several parts of the city. The excess rainfall so far in case of Colaba and Santa Cruz is 120.3mm and 197mm respectively . While Colaba has already received 68.7% of the season's required average so far, Santa Cruz received 69.7%.

The good news also continued in catchment areas and there was a 100% rise in water stocks in a week. While on July 25 water stock in catchment areas was 3.3 lakh million litres, on July 31, it rose to 8 lakh million litres. Vihar and Tansa, which supply a combined 11% of water to the city , are just two metres below the overflow level whereas Upper Vaitarna is 3.5 metres off. BMC on Thursday halved water cuts to 10% and may lift it completely if good rain persists.

2 drowning deaths in city

Two separate cases of drowning were reported in the city on Thursday. A teenager, Rafiq Shah (17), drowned in the sea at Versova behind Sagar Kutir building, Yari Road, around 2.30pm. He had gone for a swim with his friends.
In the other case, Khalid Ansari (30) of Bhiwandi drowned in Nadi Naka river. He had gone for a swim after seeing the river overflow. Fire brigade officials could not trace either Shah or Ansari's bodies till late in the night.

Downpour hits highways

Heavy rain on Thursday afternoon caused a major crack on the Mumbai-Nashik highway at the new Kasara Ghat. One side of the highway, towards Mumbai, was blocked. The crack was a foot wide and three feet deep and just next to a 150-metre-deep valley. Later, National Highway 222 was cut off between Kalyan and Titwala after Rayta bridge connecting both submerged.
Waldhuni river in Kalyan and Nadi Naka river in Bhiwandi, too, overflowed. A total of 200 families living close to Waldhuni river were shifted. In Bhiwandi, in the absence of civic facilities, around 2,000 people are forced to live in 3-foot water.

63-yr record: Santa Cruz got 1,469mm rain in July

24-Hr Torrent Adds Month's Water Stock

July has brought record rainfall for Mumbai and considerably reduced concerns about the extent of water cuts the city may have to face in the next one year. The rainfall for the month in Santa Cruz--1,469mm--has been the highest for July since 1951 and has surpassed even the 1,454mm recorded in 2005, the year of the 26/7 deluge.

In June, Santa Cruz had received only 87.3mm rainfall, the lowest in 63 years, forcing the BMC to impose a 20% water cut. The heavy rain in the past 24 hours itself (July 30-31) has given the city more than 30 days of water stock as the catchment areas have accumulated 1.16 million litres.
With the showers on July 2930 having added 50 days of stock, Mumbai now has water stock for over six months.

Within a week, the catchment areas have seen a 100% rise in stock. While the stock in the seven lakes that supply water to Mumbai was 3.33 lakh million litres on July 25, it rose to 8.03 lakh million litres on July 31.

The BMC, which has now halved water cuts to 10%, may cancel the cuts altogether if the good rainfall persists.

However, heavy rain affected railway services and threw road traffic out of gear.

Fourteen CR services-four of them on the Harbour line--were cancelled due to water-logging and signal failure. Trains were running at least 25 minutes late on the main CR line till late night.
Trains on the Metro network, too, ran late by 15 minutes.

Heavy traffic jams were reported at Sion, Wadala, Mulund, Kanjurmarg and parts of central Mumbai, and the Bandra-Worli sea link saw a major snarl at 10.30 am. On the Mumbai-Nashik highway, a major crack on the new Kasara Ghat road resulted in traffic being affected for some time.

Two drowned, one killed in landslide

Two men drowned in separate incidents in the city on Thursday, while a six-year-old boy was killed in a landslide in Chembur. Rafiq Shah (17) drowned after he went for a swim in the Versova beach in the afternoon, and Khalid Ansari, a Bhiwandi resident, drowned in the local Nadi Naka river, where he had gone swimming. Six-year-old Ganesh Kurade was killed early Thursday morning when a landslide flattened six shanties near Ashok Nagar in Chembur. Two other residents of Ashok Nagar suffered minor injuries.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Strength of 348 dams suspect as no checks in 10 yrs: CAG

Budget Overshoots Estimates By Nearly Rs 70,000Cr
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has found the structural strength of 348 large dams suspect as they have not been inspected for over a decade. This is despite the fact that the government spent Rs 70,000 crore more than the estimates, the report added.

Good rainfall for even a few weeks can flood huge tracts of land because of dam bursts, following years of delay in completing important projects and charges of corruption. In five dams, seepage and leakage noticed during an inspection in 2007 increased from 3% to 130% in 2012. "The high pendency of inspection notes and reply of officials indicates that field construction offices did not give due importance to quality control during construction of dams," the report said, point

ing out that 42% construction divisions failed to furnish construction programmes to prepare for quality tests.

Cross drains were blocked in 2007, and by 2011, they were found to be "de-shaped" at Manjara dam in Osmanabad district. The earthwork at Mun dam in Buldhana district got washed away as rectification of the right and left bunds, required in 2007, was not done. The CAG pointed out that the Dam Safety Organization did not follow criteria for selection of dams for periodic inspections. The compliance to deficiencies pointed out in health status reports of dams ranged from less than 1% to 43.81% in 2007-12.

Quality control circle officers inspect dam construction sites and issue 'red inspection slips' in case serious deficien

cies are noticed. "Work is not supposed to resume unless the deficiencies are rectified. But execution of 30 out of 81 dam projects, wherein slips were issued, continued. Even compliance to inspection notes of the quality control organization on construction work was poor. Of 5,991 inspection notes issued in 2009-13, 45% (or 2,411) were pending for reply and compliance," the report revealed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

24-hr downpour adds 32 days' water stock

A heavy downpour in the 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday added 32 days of water stock to the seven lakes supplying the city. The lakes now have four months' supply. Also, not only has the season's rainfall deficit been covered but Santa Cruz has got excess rainfall of 78.1mm and Colaba 101.5mm. Weather men have issued a warning of very heavy rainfall-from 7cm to 14cm--in the next 24 hours. Some parts of Thane and Konkan districts may get as much as 24cm.

Between Monday and Tuesday , though, the island city got just 48.3mm and Santa Cruz 26.6mm.
On the other hand, the Vasai-Virar region, Palghar, Dahanu and tribal belts of Jawahar and Mokhada got 176mm, which saw villages get cut off from the city and flooded important roads and residential townships such as Vasant Nagri, Evershine Nagar Nirman Nagar.

The Vasai Virar municipal fire brigade rescued villagers stranded along the highway in Virar. A 10-year-old boy was reportedly carried away by strong water currents in Palghar.

Pelhar dam in Nala Sopara that supplies Vasai-Virar began to overflow. Usgaon dam in the Vasai-Virar region reached 86% of its capacity . Damni dam on Surya river in Palghar also began to overflow.

Water stock in the seven lakes that feed the Mumbai region swelled to 4.9 lakh million litres on Tuesday from 3.7 lakh million litres on Monday .
Tansa and Bhatsa gained the most, 276mm and 247mm, respectively , compared with 66mm and 45mm between Sunday and Monday . Modak Sagar is 3 metres below the overflow mark and Vihar is 4 metres short.

"Bhatsa and Modak Sagar, which have a huge capacity , received widespread rainfall of 247mm and 216mm, respectively . Tulsi is much smaller, which could be why it overflowed. Interior parts of Maharashtra received moderate rainfall while it was fairly widespread in north madhya Maharashtra. The south-west monsoon has been very vigorous on account of an offshore trough as well as strong winds. We expect 95-96% of rainfall in August, of the long-range forecast," said K S Hosalikar, deputy director general meteorology , Regional Meteorological Centre, Mumbai.

Navi Mumbai, between 7am to 7.30pm, got an average rainfall of 50.6mm. Airoli recorded the highest of 63mm followed by Vashi with 50mm, Nerul with 43mm and Belapur 44mm. Morbe dam capacity increased to 77.9 metres from Monday's 76.4 metres.

Thane got a total of 55mm rainfall. There was one incident of wall collapse at Wagle Estate and one person was reported missing while swimming inside a lake at Kalwa.

The downpour brought down minimum temperatures in Colaba to 24.8 degrees Celsius and Santa Cruz to 25.7.

On Tuesday , between 8.30am and 8.30pm, Colaba recorded 11.6mm rainfall and Santa Cruz 45.3mm. The is land city and the suburbs have received more than 50% of the season's required total.

Meanwhile, traffic was comparatively smooth on Tuesday , as it was a public holiday. There some stretches, though, like the Western Express Highway which continued to witness snarls.

The cratered flyover at Malad on WEH caused backlogs around noon. "The northbound stretch of Pedder Road was jammed around 3 pm. The stretch before Mahalaxmi signal was particularly bad," said another motorist.

Slow-moving traffic was reported from Babulnath to Haji Ali, on S V Road opposite Juhu Aerodrome, Vasai, near Huma Adlabs at Kanjur Marg, Aarey flyover on WEH, near Dahisar check naka and near Dindoshi on WEH.

A tree fall threw traffic out of gear at near Hiranandani Junction at Powai.

Heavy water logging was reported at JVLR, Andheri Link Road, Kanjur Marg, L B S Marg near Gandhi Nagar, Sujay Hospital at Andheri East, Andheri Subway and Marol Naka to WEH.

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