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MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE NORTH EASTERN INDIA : POSSIBLE LEGAL AND NON-LEGAL SOLUTIONS

(STATUS REPORT OF THE ENVIRONMENT: NORTH EASTERN INDIA)

ASC-UGC TEACHERS TRAIING PROGRAMME IN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW, 17TH FEBRUARY 2002 TO 9TH MARCH 2003

Submitted by Dr. Dipak Talukar Principal, Tezpur Law College Tezpur, Assam Pin-784001 Phone-03712-2224912

MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE NORTH EASTERN INDIA: POSSIBLE LEGAL AND NON-LEGAL SOLUTIONS
The North-Eastern India is the land of rising sun in the sub-continent. Assam and other seven sisters including Sikkim consist the whole landmass of the North-Eastern India. The green belt of India, so called land of forest and tribals, the entire north-east region is rich in its natural resources-oil, natural gas, minerals and most importantly valuable forests. The worlds largest river Island 'Majuli' is situated in the heart of the river Brahmaputra. The Kaziranga National Park in the Jorhat district of Assam is the home for the world famous one-homed rhinoceros. The place of highest rainfall in the world "Mousimam" is situated in Meghalaya. Assam produces the largest share of tea that's nearly 53% of the all India production. Besides Assam; Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh & Tripura also contributing to the tea production, though output from these states is yet to gain momentum. The north eastern region which was almost an environmental friendly region with maximum rainfall every year, green trees and green pasteur everywhere is non longer a tourist destination. Though the North-East is an industrially backward region, the existing industries, deforestation and flood are causing serious problem to the environment in the region. The major environmental problems can be summarised as follows: 1. Deforestation 2. Flood 3. Industrial activities a. Coal mining operation b. Crude oil exploration c. Petroleum refinery d. Fertilizer industries e. Paper industries f. Cement industries 4. Automobile Exhaust Emission 5. Water quality of river Brahmaputra

1. Deforestation: Inspite of the existence of several forest laws and regulation the forest of NorthEast is decaying. It is now an industry. The main share holder of the 'deforestation' industries is the Department of Forest having 40% share and the militant and surrendered militants share 60% of it. The ramp at felling of trees in Bodoland areas by the Bodomilitants, in Karbi Anglog by Karbi-militant groups and in other parts of Assam and North East reduce the forest cover below 25% which was earlier more than standard requirement of33%. The killing of rhinoceros for their horn and of elephants for their ivory by the pouchers with the help of greedy forest officials is a common phenomenon which is a great threat to he existence of endangered rhinoceros in Assam. 2. Flood: Almost entire Assam get submerged twice or thrice yearly due to flood resulting loss of life and property. Flood causes severe damage to ecology, environment. Hundreds of wild animal including deers and rhinoceros' calves living in the Kaziranga National Park loss their lives in the stream of Brahmaputra every year due to flood. The river island 'Majuli' is loosing several hectares of land to the water of Brahmaputra every year, thus the very existence of the island is under threat.The major cities and town including Guwahati get submerged during flood and the municipal and other waste spread over the land causing several health hazards. Though flood is considered as natural calamity it has serious negative impact in economic development in the region. So, flood in Assam should be considered as a national problem and the Govt. of India should take initiative for controlling flood by constructing hydel / irrigation project / dams on the tributaries which is the best possible solution. 3. Industrial Activities: a. Coal mining Operations: Excavation of Coal by Open Cast Mining through mechanised process is in progress at two places (at Tiklok and the other one is at Ledo- Tirap) in Upper Assam areas. In the open mining for extraction of coal, the industry is at first removing the top soil, valuable trees vegetation etc. and the top soil cutting from the upper layer of the hillock above the coal seam are dumped in nearby areas. By doing so, a barren artificial hillock consisting of the rocks and debris is created in the place of the natural green hillocks. It is observed that the industry

continued its operation without considering the question of environmental preservation. The degradation of environment associated with open cast mining observed in Upper Assam areas can be summarised as follows: 1. Destruction of high hillocks. 2. Creation of big ponds in place of high hillocks. 3. Destruction of vegetations and trees. 4. Destruction of top soil of excavated areas. 5. Soil erosion during rainy season in particular. 6. Raising of paddy fields surface. 7. Creation of ugly landscape. 8. Spreading out the undesirable debris from the mine to the nearby areas, rivers, stream etc. 9. Closing/stopping of flow of natural streams in the mining areas. 10. Damaging nearby agricultural fields by undesirable debris. 11. Discharge of acidic mine effluent into the nearby water courses, land etc. at the initiative the Government of Assam and Pollution Control Board the industry has undertaken several environmental protection measures at the open cast mining areas in Upper Assam. Due to this, damage to the agricultural fields, water courses natural drains etc. has reduced to great extent and action has already been taken by the industry to recover the degraded area. They also commissioned an effluent treatment plant to treat their effluent in one of their mines. Measures have already been taken to set up Effluent Treatment Plant at their other mines. b. Crude Oil Exploration: Two major sector industries are extracting crude oil in the State. Their main operation are Drilling and Production. Most of the drilling sites are located in the paddy fields, low lying areas, forest areas, and in some case these are on the back or near the water courses.

The pits, where drilling effluents are kept, are not scientifically constructed in most of the cases.

Capacity of these pits are less, the height of bundhs is low and most of them are located in flood plain areas. Seepage is a common phenomenon from these pits due to which nearby areas are badly affected damaging agricultural fields, crops, vegetation, drinking water sources. Water bodies, etc. are common in a place where drilling activities are in progress. As per direction of Government of Assam and Pollution Control Board, Assam these industries are taking following steps to control pollution from drilling sites. 1. Providing waste pit near drilling locations. 2. Providing impervious layer in these pits. 3. Increasing capacity of Drilling well effluent pits. 4. Construction of concrete oil pits. 5. Construction of Ring bundh. 6. Provision of brick was around effluent pit. 7. Raising bundh above the highest flood level. 8. Skimming of floating oils from effluent pit. Gases, wastewater and oil are separated in the production operation. Separated waste is flared up in an evaporation flare pit. Due to constant upward movement of the flare and also due to poor construction of flare pit, seepage through the lakes takes place and it is causing problems to the nearby areas. Constant heat and light form the flare pits are also causing problem to the adjacent agricultural fields. Especially in production of rice. In view of above the industries have been directed to take immediate steps to control pollution and the industries are initiating following steps to control pollution. 1. Commissioning of effluent treatment plant. 2. Providing asbestos sheet brick wall around the flare pits to prevent light and radiation of heat to the nearby areas. 3. Multiple flaring instead of single flaring. 4. Cold flaring of gas from October to December to safeguard the adjacent paddy cultivation. c. Petroleum Refinery: There are four Refineries in the State. All the refineries have

constructed and commissioned their 'Effluent Treatment Plants' to treat their effluents. The effluents are meeting 'MINAS' qualitatively in most of the time and as such overall status of the petroleum refining industries is good. d. Fertilizer Industries: There is a major public sector fertilizer industry in Upper Assam area consisting of three units. These are all Natural Gas based Nitrogenous Fertilizer Units which manufacture Ammonia, Urea, Sulphuric Acid and Ammonium Sulphate. The following are the main pollution problems associated with the industry. i)Discharge of ammonical effluents. ii)Discharge of chromium bearing effluents. iii)Discharge of Arsenic. iv)Discharge of excess quantity of effluent during the power tips. v)Release of Sulphur di-oxide into atmosphere. vi)Release of oily effluents. Considering the poor pollution control measures and constant failure in implementing the directives and guidelines of SPCB the issue was referred to the Central Pollution Control Board recently. e. Paper Industries: There are two public sector paper manufacturing units in Assam. They are producing one million ton of paper annually. Pollution problems from these mills are mainly

i) ii) iii) iv) v)

Release of pollutants beyond limits Release of mercury bearing effluents. Dumping of lime sludge. Dumping fly ash. Release of coloured effluents. As per the directions of the Pollution Control Board Assam the Units have already

commissioned effluent treatment plants. However, monitoring conducted by Pollution Control Board, Assam indicated that the effluents are beyond permissible limits and measures taken are

not satisfactory. At the initiative of Pollution Control Board, the Government of Assam directed these industries to take immediate action so that pollution level could be brought within limit. The industries are also directed to switch over to another process of manufacturing where Mercury is not at all used. The industries have been initiating following steps in the units to control pollutions i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) vii) viii) ix) x) Dumping of lime sludge in solid from at selected sites Reclamation of lime sludge disposal areas. Dumping of fly-ash in selected sites. Streamlining storm water drains Isolation COP area. Disposal of brine sludge in HDPE lined concrete pit. Routing all the effluents through ETP. Additional holding pits for collecting black liquor at the time of any eventuality. Recycling of the black liquor. Installation of Resin Tower Treatment Plant for mercury bearing effluents

As per direction of the Board one of the industries switched over their existing CCP into Membrance Filter Technology. f. Cement Industries: At present three units are manufacturing cement in the State. One of them has vertical shaft kiln of 100 ton daily capacity. Of the remaining two - one in public sector

having production capacity of 600 TPD and the other one is private sector with capacity 400
TPD. 5. Automobile Exhaust Emission: In recent times the internal combustion engine powered vehicles (both petrol and diesel) have identified as one of the basic sources of air pollution in our urban centres and highways. Testing and control measures of automobile pollutions rest on 'State Transport Authority' as

per provisions of the 'Motor Vehicle Act'. Therefore, Pollution Control Boards are not directly related to the control of automobile exhaust emission. Even though, considering the problem and to understand the status of our vehicles plying on roads, Assam Pollution Control Board has carried out several rounds of 'Vehicle Emission survey' at eight important towns of Assam, viz., Guwhati, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Tinsukia, si1char, Moran and Bongaigaon. The survey reveals that the conditions of engine carburetor, fuel injection system etc. of Diesel, Petrol car or 2 and 3 wheelers are not satisfactory and only 24, 49, 16.74 and 34.19 percent (respectively) are within permissible limit. Such unauthorized emissions should immediately be prevented by the concerned authorities. 6. Water Quality of River Brahmaputra: The river Brahmaputra is one of the greatest environmental assets of North East India. Pollution Control Board of Assam is always keeping a constant watch on the wholesomeness of the Water quality of the river and its tributaries. Previous and current monitoring conducted by the Board, reconnaissance survey carried out by Envirotech (East) Pvt. Ltd., and recent detailed monitoring of the Water quality of the river and her tributaries so far studied reveal the following. i) Unlike other Indian rivers the Brahmaputra river water contains low concentration of organic load and concentration of minerals (i.e. dissolved inorganic solids) are within desired level. Like other Indian rivers bacteriological water quality of the river system is poor for most of the reaches almost throughout the year. All the available data show that bacteriologically the water quality of the river is not acceptable for most of the occasions. Concentration of total coliform which is a member of the class of biological indicators was found to have exceeded the tolerance limit for all reaches other river for most of the occasions and are in the range of 7.30 (MPM/IOOMI) to 4600 (MPN/100ml.) in the mains stream.

ii)

Fecal coliform count is also high for the most of the stretches for almost of the time of a year which indicates that the water is potentially harmful and may contain pathogenic organism: range of current finding-360 (MPN/IOOml) to 15000 (MPN/100ml) in the main stream. Bacteriological contamination of river water may happen due to surface wash off by rain water which is seasonal and through discharge of raw sewage from towns or villages for continuous period. To improve the water quality of this river system we have to reduce bacteriological pollution load on the rivers through better way of sewage disposal. It may pointed out that no township or city on the bank of the river has planned sewerage system. The raw sewage from human habitat is contaminating the river water continuously. In most of the cases raw urban sewage is discharged into the river through a number of unplanned drains. To avoid such hazards the sanitation systems of the habitats need to be improved as a whole and authorities of the towns and cities should take care to have integrated sewerage system and arrange appropriate treatment of the raw sewage before discharging into the river. The Last but not the least, the illegal migrants problem (from Bangladesh) In Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya is also contributing to the environmental degradation of the region. Illiteracy, poverty, poor hygiene and mean for sustenance amongst the people are also contributing to a great extent to environmental degradation. In order to prevent an environmental degradation Pollution Control Board, Assam has been discharging various duties and responsibilities as per provisions of the concerned Acts and Rules. In spite of all such efforts so far problems still persist and we are to address ourselves to their solution for creating a pollution free environment. http://www.indexmundi.com/india/environment_current_issues.html

Climate Change Issue..


Climate change is the biggest and most controversial environmental issue of our times. Or rather, the cause of climate change is. The fact that the Earth's climate has changed over its history - sometimes with cataclysmic consequences, called mass extinctions, for many of the planet's inhabitants - is not disputed. However, what has been the cause of fierce debate is whether or not human activity is currently causing a warming of the world. What climate change, man-made or not, is not - is short term weather. These trends are much bigger and much longer term than a hot summer or a cold winter, we're thinking more of ice ages than cold snaps when we talk about climate change. There are a number of reasons why the Earth's climate has changed historically. As the continents have moved through the process of plate tectonics they see changes in their climate, both as a result of the influence of the changing oceans and the size of landmass. The Sun also plays a role: as the main source of heat and light for the planet, its activity is a major player in our climate and it is not a constant; fluctuating both cyclically and as it goes through its lifespan as a star. The Earth's position relative to the sun is also not as constant as you might like to think, we're not in a circular orbit and the tilt of the planet also changes, causing changes in how all that heat and light from the Sun hits the planet's surface. Volcanic activity too can change climate by putting large amounts of material into the Earth's atmosphere and thus reflecting heat away from the surface. Such large eruptions are however rare, in fact, the phrase ''once in a blue moon'' probably comes from the change in the atmosphere caused by ash plumes from the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. It's also been theorised that asteroid strikes on the planet have a similar effect, throwing material into the sky, and some scientists believe that the end of the age of the dinosaurs may have been caused by a giant asteroid hit. The final reason why climates change - and this is where the controversy comes in - relates to human activity, or anthropogenic global warming, which is what is meant when you read a news story about climate change.

Primarily, this has referred to the misleadingly named greenhouse effect. While a greenhouse warms the air by allowing in and retaining heat and not allowing in cooling air, greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing the Sun's heat and then reemitting it into the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are: water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, water vapour, ozone, nitrous oxide and CFC-12, a chlorofluorocarbon the use of which in many countries as an aerosol propellant and refrigerant has been banned. With the exception of CFC-12, which is man-made, these gases have historically existed in the atmosphere and there have been natural fluctuations (for example volcanoes emit CO2) in their levels. The most common of these gases and thought to be the most significant greenhouse gas is water vapour but it's one on which human activity has little effect. As air warms it can hold more water, the increase in water vapour is said to be responsible for a possible amplification of global warming as the temperature warms. Plants, which rely on CO2 to survive and which use and store it as they photosynthesise are said to be natural carbon sinks and over history natural variations in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are thought to have been balanced by their action.

However, since around the middle of the 18th Century, human activity affecting the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has rapidly increased. Since the industrial revolution took hold we not only burned more CO2-emitting fuels, from wood to coal to oil, but we have also massively reduced the amount of vegetation on the planet. Is the Climate Changing In July 2010 the British Government's Meteorological Office and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued findings that they said showed unequivocally the world was warming. Using 10 indicators, seven temperature measures and three ice or snow cover measures, they said that each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last and successively broken temperature records. However, since around the middle of the 18th Century, human activity affecting the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has rapidly increased. Since the industrial revolution took hold we not only burned more CO2-emitting fuels, from wood to coal to oil, but we have also massively reduced the amount of vegetation on the planet. Is the Climate Changing In July 2010 the British Government's Meteorological Office and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued findings that they said showed unequivocally the world was warming. Using 10 indicators, seven temperature measures and three ice or snow cover measures, they said that each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last and successively broken temperature records. Action on Climate Change The reason why climate change has become so controversial is because people are being asked to make massive lifestyle changes in their lifestyle to help mitigate the effects of man made global warming. If action on climate change amounted to legislation to outlaw, say, wooden pencils then, while scientists may debate the rights and wrongs of the issue, you can almost be sure that our media would not be filled with the dispute. The roots of world-wide action on climate change date back to the 1988 foundation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the World Meteorological Organisation, a department of the United Nations in 1988. Since its foundation it has reported regularly on the state of climate change, with its 1990 report inspiring the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the first international treaty that aimed to reduce global warming, which was signed at the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. One of the key moments in the growth of concern about global warming was the release in 2006 of the film, An Inconvenient Truth. Thedocumentary followed former US Vice President Al Gore as he tried to convince audiences about the seriousness of climate change. Gore won a Nobel peace prize as a result, but, like everything else to do with climate change the film has been the subject of much debate, particularly when schools have tried to show it to pupils.

The countries that signed the treaty have met since, with much fanfare, but often to little effect. The most recent major meeting was at Copenhagen in 2009 and was widely criticised by environmentalists. Much of what has been agreed is also controversial, particularly so-called carbon trading arrangements which aim to set amarketplace for carbon credits sold by those who live with a small carbon footprint or contribute to carbon reduction by, for example, planting trees, to those who pollute. Most countries have set targets for the reduction in carbon emissions. For example, the British Government's Climate Change Act of 2008 set legally-binding targets of a 34% reduction by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. Consequences Again, the possible consequences of climate change are the subject of much to-ing and fro-ing with accusations of irresponsible scare-mongering and reprehensible complacency flying between the parties. However, the IPCC has produced estimates - and the sheer complexity of climate systems and thus the difficulty of predicting how they will react using computer models makes them open to criticism - of what may happen as temperatures rise. Broadly speaking, most are catastrophic to both human life and to many other species on the planet. Controversy Unless you've already moved under a rock in preparation for climate chaos, you will have noticed that the issue of global warming is a controversial one. There has been criticism of the IPCC and its work, the so-called climategate scandal involving leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's climate studies centre and doubt has been cast on the very idea that humans could be causing warming of the globe. Even the controversy is controversial. Environmentalists often refer to climate sceptics as climate deniers, claimed by their opponents to be a deliberate attempt to ally them in the public mind with far right wing holocaust deniers. Many who criticise the science that claims to show that human activity is causing global warming are accused of being funded by the oil industry and free market think tanks who oppose the sort of government regulation that it seems will be necessary to implement large reductions in greenhouse gases, especially CO2 Personal Action One of the strongest ideas of the green movement has been 'think global act local', which empowers people to believe that their own actions can have an effect on problems that are as big as the planet. This applies to climate change arguably more than any other issue. What can I possibly do? Has even become a plaintive refrain of whole western nations shrugging their shoulders as they watch the rapid and dirty industrialisation of new economic giants like China and India. However, once you accept the idea of climate change, then doing nothing doesn't really seem an option. It's possible to join any number of groups which campaign for environmental issues and almost all of which make global warming a major part of their efforts. Lobbying your elected representatives as an individual or as part of a group is your right as a voter.

The good news is that changing your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint might not just be cheap; it might even save you money, because broadly speaking, the less you consume, the less damage you are likely to do. You can, of course, speed a good deal of money on advice and carbon trading too. Reduce your car use and try and drive more fuel efficiently, if you can, buy a car powered by alternative, greener means. Try not to use products made from oil, looking for green and vegetable-based alternatives is a good idea. Cut down on your power use - while efforts are being made to introduce renewable energy (and you can opt to pay a little more to use them with some providers) to western societies, the vast majority of our heating, light and power comes from carbon emitting production methods And, grow! Plants are carbon sinks, if you have land and can plant trees then you're making a difference. Find more on how toreduce your carbon footprint.

Assessment of Stakeholders During Ms. Paden's June visit the industrial associations with whom we were partnering, the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), informed her that the timing was not right for additional educational materials on emissions trading for their members. While members were highly interested in emissions trading, there is not much they can do until a number of external factors fall into place. These factors include an international agreement to create a mechanism for emissions trading from developing countries, the participation of the Indian government in that agreement, plus the governments establishment of baseline carbon emissions data and a mechanism for certifying tradable credits. The industry association representatives advised us to postpone development of materials for their members until after the Climate Conventions Conference Parties Meeting in November in The Hague at which time some of the factors might change. Ms. Paden and the mission revised GreenCOMs workplan to eliminate the production

and printing of educational brochures and to redirect that effort into further work on message development that could be used to create materials at a later date. It was agreed that rather than pre-testing draft materials, IMRB and GreenCOM would develop a set of messages about energy efficiency and emissions trading and IMRB would pre-test these messages with three focus groups on industrialists. Research Publications Four research publications were produced as a result of this project: Study of Indian Stakeholders on CO2 Emissions Mitigation by IMRB, a report on qualitative interviews with 79 stakeholders in industry, government, NGOs and the press; Study of Indian Stakeholders on CO2 Emissions Mitigation: Executive Summary, by GreenCOM, a summary of the views of stakeholders in each sector based on the interviews in the reports above; Pre-Testing Messages to the Indian Business Community on CO2 Emissions Mitigation, by IMRB, a report on the three focus groups responses to about 25 possible messages about energy efficiency and emissions trading; Proposed Messages for Indian Business Groups on CO2 Emissions Mitigation, by GreenCOM, an interpretation of the data in the first three reports along with recommendations on what informational and persuasive messages should be presented to various stakeholder groups. GreenCOM also generated a database of stakeholder responses that can be used as a baseline of knowledge, attitudes, and practices, against which the impact of future educational interventions can be measured. 7 Analysis of the data collected permitted GreenCOM to propose disseminating a total of 25 messages, 19 for industry and 6 for government. The messages suggested for industry

were originally divided into promotional and clarification messages. The promotional messages were broken down into two sets. Some were expected to be more motivating to more efficient firms; other messages were expected to motivate representatives from less efficient firms. It was hypothesized that firms that were already taking energy efficiency measures might be interested in the next step of trading carbon emissions reduction credits. The less efficient firms may need to hear more direct messages related to energy conservation first. The motivator for all private firms was cost and profit related. Most firms understood that energy efficiency could help reduce costs and make profits, and that carbon emissions trading may be the icing on the cake in that it could bring in additional revenue. The original research indicated that the less efficient firms were interested in how to become efficient, and that the more efficient firms were focused on how to take advantage of carbon emissions trading, if in fact it does happen. The proposed messages for the government and perhaps for government-owned firms addressed the need for India to reduce carbon emissions through market mechanisms, regardless of the positions of developed nations. Information Needs of Stakeholders Because the mechanics of a global trading scheme in carbon emissions credits has not been agreed upon, there is much confusion over how such a scheme might work. Participants were interested in getting a step-by-step guide on how to prepare and market credits. Their eagerness for details and, in some cases, for the names of potential buyers, indicated that they were largely sold on the concept if they could profit from it. They simply do not know what the next step is.