Environment Justice Matters Vol 3. Issue. 6 | Large Gaps In Bengaluru’s Urban Planning Process & More

Vol 3. Issue 6

ESG Features

Solid Waste Management Consultation

By a 17th March 2022 direction in a batch of PILs relating to urban governance and solid waste management (WP 46523/2012 c/w WP 24739/2012), Principal Bench of the High Court of Karnataka sought the opinion of Petitioners on sustainable resolution of the vexatious solid waste management situation in Bengaluru, and across Karnataka. In response, ESG organised and invited comments from a wider community, including holding a discussion on 9th of April 2022. With participation from across sectors in Bangalore, Mangalore, and other parts of India, the world as well, collated inputs would be distilled into strategies for sustainably resolving the solid waste management situation and submitted to Court before the next hearing on15th June 2022. This consultation was co-organised with support from Break Free From Plastic.    

Designing for a Just Transition

On 19th April 2022, ESG conducted a day-long interactive workshop on “Human-Centred Approach to Planning and Decision Making of Mega Projects” for students of the Srishti School of Design. The workshop dealt with narratives on how mega projects are decided, who decides, who designs, who benefits, who loses and who gains. Participants were student from “Ethical dilemmas” electives were shaken by ground level realities of mega projects such as the utility scale solar parks at Pavagada, ‘Science City’ at Challakere and ‘Namma Metro’, Bengaluru. Students were sensitised to the crucial importance of humanistic, ecological, and inclusive designs forestaged by deeply democratic and equitable decision making processes. 

Student Feedback

Reimagining Renewable Energy for this Earth Day

Bhargavi Rao of ESG in this critique of the massive shift to renewable energy through mega solar and wind farms points to continuing dangerous lack of review of social and environmental impacts. The development of such projects on farm and common lands claiming they help fix climate change is disrupting lives and livelihoods of farming and pastoral communities by the hundreds of thousands. Besides, wild growth areas are disrupted, as is the case with the last remaining tropical thorn forest in Kutch, Gujarat which is battling for survival.  Local pastoralists and farmers share horrific instances of impacts of these windmills in the region, whose constant whirring is driving away bees and birds, which are important pollinators. Overhead electric lines have electrocuted critically endangered birds such as the Great Indian Bustard, as this research paper discusses.  

Large Gaps In Bengaluru’s Urban Planning Process

The Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) and Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) are developing the 55-km-long Metro Blue Line (Reach 2A and 2B), that connects Silk Board through KR Puram upto the Bengaluru International Airport, the largest transport infrastructure project in the city. A ‘open house’ was held in a luxury hotel in Bengaluru to engage with the wide public. Environment Support Group participated in this  consultation and found that the entire process was shrouded in secrecy.  When ESG drew attention to critical questions about impacts and implications of the project, these were aggressively silenced: the delegation prevented ESG team from sharing copies of a Note on the Open House organised by DULT and ADB Consultants regarding proposed development of Reach 2A and 2B of “Namma Metro” written by Leo Saldanha, citing it was a disturbance to the proceedings. Read a report of the ‘Open House’ prepared by the ESG Team.

Meanwhile, Gandhi Bazaar in south Bengaluru is in the middle of a highly contested debate over a proposal by Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) to pedestrianise the market.  

Other News

Environmental Jurisprudence

In recent weeks environmental jurisprudence in India has seen major developments, with Supreme Court issuing various rulings with mixed messages. It held that Environment rights must prevail over all rights including civil rights, while in another ruling it directed Karnataka Government to stop expansion of the Karwar port as it is a critically vulnerable coastal area.   And in what appears to be a contradiction to this trend, the Supreme Court approved the Delhi Dehradun highway project, which involves clear-felling of 11,000 trees and risking massive landslides. 

The Madras High Court, meanwhile, directed the TN Pollution Control Board to take action not only against private entities but also civic bodies for violation of environmental norms. The Karnataka High Court in a similar decision directed Deputy Commissioner of Mandya to shift a proposed Solid Waste Management unit away from the banks of Cauvery river stating that “Impact on Environment has to be kept in mind”.  Last week, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court invoked the ‘parens patriae jurisdiction’, and declared ‘Mother Nature’ as a ‘living being’ having the status of a legal entity.

 “Mother Nature is accorded the rights akin to fundamental rights, legal rights, constitutional rights for its survival, safety, sustenance and resurgence in order to maintain its status and also to promote its health and well-being.  The State and Central governments are directed to protect ‘Mother Nature’ and take appropriate steps in this regard in all possible ways. ” – Madurai Bench of Madras High Court

Water Wise: Mega Dams or a series of tanks?
Ithai Barrage.Photo by Snigdhendu Bhattacharya/Mongabay

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As witnessed in multiple instances, mega dam projects are causing irreversible changes to biodiversity. In the Loktak wetlands, Manipur, many varieties of fish and local varieties of rice have been lost due to the construction of the Ithai barrage in 1983 which has blocked movement of migratory fish. Besides, the constant water level held by the dam does not allow cultivation of rice. Being oblivious to the loss of livelihood and nutrition of the local communities, the Government continues to further propose several hydropower projects in the North Eastern Region, including the “big ticket”  Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project

Down south, IISc scientists reveal that the Mekedatu Dam proposal will bring huge economic losses as by submerging 52 sq km of forests worth  81.6 billion rupees. This includes ecosystem services worth Rs 27.30 billion (provisioning), Rs 41.19 billion (regulating) and Rs 13.11 billion (cultural). Scientist TV Ramachandra says that if the State Government is keen to go ahead with the project, then it must pay the sum of Rs. 81.6 bn to Karnataka Forest Department. 

It would be wiser to collect rainwater where it falls and spend the resources on protecting our ancient system of tanks, lakes, kuntes, kaluves and kalyanis. Just this is what a group of 35 women in Kolar did desilting 2 lakes and their canals, thereby ensuring water stored could support the second paddy crop. On the other hand, Kothanur lake in South Bangalore became an indicator of the sorry state of lakes, where even after being ‘developed’ by BBMP with Rs. 95 lakh investment, sewage continues to flow in causing fishkills. Unaffected by its ‘model’s’ failures, BBMP continues to look at lake development as involving the building of walking paths and entertainment infrastructure, in direct contravention with Justice NK Patil Committee guidelines upheld as binding across Karnataka by the High Court in the ESG lakes case.

Climate Change

The IPCC sixth assessment report released early April notes that climate misinformation can jeopardise climate action  and weaken public demand for mitigation and adaptation measures. The  report  acknowledges the role of misinformation in fuelling polarisation, saying, “Together with the proliferation of suspicions of “fake news” and “post-truth”, some traditional and social media contents have fuelled polarisation and partisan divides on climate change in many countries.”

In addition to IPCC sixth assessment report, two research papers on the Himalayas were release: one on the Assam region and the other Uttarakhand region. Both reveal that  medicinal plants in the Himalayas are serious threat due to climate change and call for an immediate revision of current conservation strategies.

In the Lok Sabha, Opposition members questioned the Government on its preparedness to deal with climate change refugees, especially those who will have to move away from the coastal areas leaving their traditional livelihoods behind. The Government responded saying it was prepared for ‘climate refugees’ through its climate funds and transitioning to renewable energy sources. However, the Government failed to address the marginalisation and consequent loss of livelihood of the communities. In a recent report by WRI and Climate Focus observed:

“ Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are “incredible stewards and protectors of their lands and play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions.”

Which forest peoples around the world have been saying with the way they live and also in their assertions, which national and global decision making agencies sidestep, preferring centralised responses as guided by the Paris agreement.

Young people, meanwhile, are struggling to find ways to imagine just and equitable futures rid of racism and impacts of environmental degradation. With the pandemic delivering a brutal blow to global movements such as Fridays for Future, deeper questions are emerging about how to make global transformations into a sane future possible

Environment

Healthy ecosystems are the best way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights United Nations Environment Programme in Ecosystem Restoration Playbook: A Practical Guide to Healing the Planet. The book calls for action from residents the world over, urging them to take on-the-ground restoration in their local area to help restore ecosystems.

Upto 40% of the world’s land is degraded, says the United Nations, and this mainly due to industrial and chemical based food production. While the world looks for ways to combat land degradation, the Karnataka Government’s neglect of India’s first declared ‘Biodiversity Heritage site’ at Nallur , Devanahalli , near the Bengaluru International Airport is worrisome. With over 292 tamarind trees, with some of them being over 400 years old and thus representing critical varieties that can support future needs, the neglect of this biodiversity rich site is deeply disconcerting. 

In not so great news, the air we breathe in India is considered 5th highest in PM 2.5 concentration world over. Mumbai, meanwhile, faces the challenge of tackling noise pollution. Several studies show the adverse impacts that noise pollution can have on people’s lives. 

Microplastics and other toxic substances

From the Mount Everest to the deepest reaches of the oceans, microplastics are found. They also have made their way into the deep reaches of our lungsAnother study by IISc. Prof. Nongthomba indicate that microplastics in river Cauvery are responsible for growth defects and skeletal deformities in fish. The implications of this for the future of biodiversity and the human race is absolutely frightening.

As scientists reveal that chemical pollution has exceeded the plenary boundaries, beyond which lies the breakdown of global ecosystems, the European Union’s plan to ban about 12,000 dangerous substances could be the largest ban of toxic substances ever if implemented. The ban would bring a restriction on substances linked to cancers, hormonal disruption, reprotoxic disorders, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses. 

Amendments further dilute the Environment Impact Assessment

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC) introduced amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 between April 11-20 through three gazette notifications. Environmentalists have criticised both the amendments and the lack of following due process. One of the major amendments called for removing the process of public consultation in the case of certain types of projects. Another amendment now empowers the Centre, instead of the State, to evaluate and approve projects of national defence or security importance. 

Diversity and Inclusivity

When Indian Home Minister Amit Shah made a statement on the use of Hindi as the official language of communication to replace English, the backlash from across India was immediate and included major actors, musicians and politicians. The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, upheld the rights of transgender persons and directed a change in passport rules which require a transgender person to provide a gender reassignment surgery certificate for issual of passport. 

Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist and opinion columnist for the Washington Post, who was to speak at the International Journalism Festival, Italy was not allowed to board a flight at Mumbai. She had to secure permission from the Delhi High Court and then make the trip. Finally speaking at the event on : “When the State attacks: Journalism under fire in the world’s biggest democracy”, she expressed deep pain about the rapid erosion of compassionate, humane, truthful journalism.

ಪರಿಸರ ಮತ್ತು ನೀರಿನ ನೆಲೆಗಳು(ಕೆರೆಗಳು)

ವಿಶ್ವ ಆರೋಗ್ಯ ದಿನ: ಪರಿಸರ ಮತ್ತು ಆರೋಗ್ಯದ ನಂಟು. ಪರಿಸರದ ಬಿಕ್ಕಟ್ಟು ಆರೋಗ್ಯದ ಬಿಕ್ಕಟ್ಟೂ ಹೌದು! ವಿದ್ಯುತ್- ಉಷ್ಣತೆ- ಸಾರಿಗೆಗಾಗಿ ಇಂಧನ ಉರಿಸುವಿಕೆಯಿಂದ ಉಂಟಾಗುವುದು ವಾಯುಮಾಲಿನ್ಯ. ಜಗತ್ತಿನಾದ್ಯಂತ ಪ್ರತಿವರ್ಷ ವಾಯುಮಾಲಿನ್ಯದಿಂದ 70 ಲಕ್ಷ ಅಕಾಲಿಕ ಮರಣಗಳು ಉಂಟಾಗುತ್ತವೆ ಎಂದರೆ ನಂಬಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವೇ? ಜೀವಜಲದ ಮೂಲಗಳನ್ನು ಸಂರಕ್ಷಿಸಬೇಕಾದ ತುರ್ತುಸ್ಥಿತಿ ಈಗ ಬಂದಿದೆ: ಸಂಭಾವ್ಯ ಬರಕ್ಕೆ ಕೆರೆಯೆಂಬ ಮದ್ದು. ನೀರಿಲ್ಲದೆ ನಾಲ್ಕು ದಿನವೂ ಬದುಕಲಾರದ ಮನುಷ್ಯ, ನೀರಿನ ಕುರಿತಾಗಿ ಇಷ್ಟೇಕೆ ಉಪೇಕ್ಷೆ ಹೊಂದಿದ್ದಾನೆ? ಏಕೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಜಲಮೂಲಗಳು, ನದಿಗಳು, ಕೆರೆ-ಕುಂಟೆಗಳು ಮಾಲಿನ್ಯದ ಮಡುಗಳಾಗಿವೆ? ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಭಾರತದ ಚಿರಾಪುಂಜಿಯೆಂದೇ ಖ್ಯಾತವಾಗಿರುವ ತೀರ್ಥಹಳ್ಳಿಯ ಆಗುಂಬೆ ಪ್ರದೇಶವನ್ನು ಬರಪೀಡಿತವೆಂದು ಘೋಷಣೆ ಮಾಡುವ ಅನಿವಾರ್ಯ ನಮಗೇಕೆ ಬಂತು? ಮಲೆನಾಡಿನ ಹೆಬ್ಬಾಗಿಲು ಎಂದು ಕರೆಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ, ಗುಡ್ಡಬೆಟ್ಟಗಳಿಂದ ಕೂಡಿದ ಶಿವಮೊಗ್ಗ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ತಾಲ್ಲೂಕುಗಳಲ್ಲೂ ನೀರಿನ ಕೊರತೆಯೇಕೆ? ಏಷ್ಯಾ ಖಂಡದಲ್ಲೇ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಕೆರೆಗಳನ್ನು ಹೊಂದಿದ ತಾಲ್ಲೂಕು ಎಂದು ಪ್ರಸಿದ್ಧಿ ಪಡೆದ ಸೊರಬ ತಾಲ್ಲೂಕಿನ ಬಹಳಷ್ಟು ಹಳ್ಳಿಗಳೇಕೆ ಬರದಿಂದ ಬಳಲುತ್ತಿವೆ? ಇಂತಹ ಹಲವಾರು ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳಿವೆ.

Environment Support Group (Trust)

1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage

Bangalore 560070. INDIA

Tel: 91-80-26713560 | Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316

Website: esgindia.org Email: socialmedia@esgindia.org 

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