Fukushima nuclear power site leaks 300 tons of radioactive water

On Aug. 20, a spokesman from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, announced that 300 tons of highly contaminated water has escaped the facility and leaked into the ground.

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Puddles of radioactive water were discovered by TEPCO workers near an inland tank Monday, prompting further investigation. It was soon discovered that a 1,000-ton capacity steel storage tank was missing some 300 tons of highly radioactive water. According to reports, the water contains levels of radioactive cesium and strontium that are hundreds of times higher than legal safety limits.

Officials from TEPCO have said they believe the leak did originate from the tank, but are still uncertain how or where in particular the leak occurred. The incident has sparked particular concern because four other storage tanks with the same design have also experienced leaks over the past year, the Associated Press reported.

The seriousness of the leak has also prompted Japan’s nuclear regulators to declare a radiological release incident for the first time since 2011, when a high level earthquake and subsequent tsunami resulted in a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima complex.

TEPCO has said the leak is mostly likely ongoing and has set its focus on stemming any further spread of the contamination. Workers have been placing sandbags around the tank vessel in an attempt to stave off the water leak as the region braces for heavy rainfall.

Civil society groups slam MP govt over FRA violations in Mahan forests

Civil society groups on Tuesday came together in support of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) and demanded a response from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan about the non-implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Mahan forests of Singrauli district.

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“This has come two months after the Union Tribal Affairs Minister, V K C Deo wrote a letter to the State Chief Minister and Governor, about FRA violations in the Mahan forests in the Singrauli district,” Greenpeace India Senior Campaigner and MSS activist Priya Pillai told reporters.

The state government has been tight-lipped about the issue and has not come out with any response, Priya said. “The Union Tribal Affairs Ministry has still not got a response from the Chief Minister. The State government cannot afford to drag its feet over the issue,” said Priya who is an activist with MSS and has been working with villagers in Mahan for the past two-and-a-half years for implementation of the FRA. She said the MoEF granted Stage-I clearance to the Mahan coal block (alloted to Mahan Coal Limited – a joint venture of Essar and Hindalco) last year, along with 36 conditions which includes implementation of FRA.

However, the state government has gone ahead and given an NOC to the company on the basis of a fraudulent Gram Sabha resolution, Pillai said. A special Gram Sabha on FRA was held on March 6, 2013 in Amelia, which was attended by only 184 people, she said. But the copy of the Gram Sabha resolution obtained through RTI (after four months) has 1,125 signatures – most of them, the villagers fear, have been forged, Priya said.

At a joint press conference with MSS members on July 19, 2013, Deo had assured he will look into the matter. “We have come to Bhopal to demand our rights from the Chief Minister. The Tribal Affairs Minister had assured us of his support but the State government has not spoken a word on the issue,” said Ujiraj Singh Khairwar, member of MSS and a resident of Amelia. The mine would render them homeless, Khairwar said and added that for generations they have been dependent on the forests for their livelihood.

Source: PTI 13 August 2013

Civil Society Pushes for More Active Participation in Green Climate Fund

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The Green Climate Fund has been opened up to observers, but civil society representatives want to play a bigger role.

MEXICO CITY, Jul 21 2013 (IPS) – The Green Climate Fund (GCF), created under the auspices of the United Nations to finance the huge investments demanded by climate change, was opened up to participation by civil society and private sector representatives as observers in March.

But non-governmental organisations are pressing for more active participation now that the GCF is moving into the crucial phase of designing policies and distributing resources, especially with regard to the controversial Private Sector Facility.

“Now they are discussing what type of observers and executors can be in the Fund. This opens up the possibility of having financial institutions involved as executors, and they are studying the criteria for qualification and safeguards,” Colombian attorney Astrid Puentes, co-director of the Interamerican  Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), told Tierramérica. In this process, “we are being ignored,” she stated.

As one of the observer organisations from the region, AIDA monitors the sessions of the GCF Board, which is based in South Korea.

The creation of the GCF was agreed at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in late 2011 in Cancún, Mexico. The industrialised countries pledged to deliver 30 billion dollars in new and additional financing by 2012, with priority placed on resources for climate change adaptation in the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

A longer-term target was set for the mobilisation of 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.

The World Bank was designated as the interim trustee of the Fund for the first three years.

A year later, in Durban, South Africa, a governing body was created: the 24-member GCF Board, composed of an equal number of members from developed and developing countries, responsible for the execution and oversight of the Fund’s resources.

At its next meeting, scheduled for this September in Paris, the Board will assess the progress made in the development of a business model framework, transparency policies, private financing and conditions for access to GCF resources.

“It’s important that, whatever is done, it has to do with small and medium enterprises. The approach should focus on the needs of ordinary people in the developing countries and then how the private sector is engaged,” Karen Orenstein, an international policy analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S., told Tierramérica.

“It’s incredibly important that a country decides what is good and the private sector obliges to it,” she added.

At a meeting on Jun. 25-28 in the South Korean city of Songdo, where it is based, the GCF Board decided that the Private Sector Facility will commence its operations through accredited national, regional and international implementing entities and intermediaries. It also established that it may over time work directly with private sector actors, subject to consideration by the Board.

This decision derailed attempts by the United States and Australia to give corporations direct access to the funds, bypassing government control.

A report published in June by a consortium of five civil society organisations, funded by the UK-based Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), stressed the role of national institutions.

“Especially the GCF should prioritise access of local (…) actors to the available funds,” the report states, adding that “clear funding modalities must be put in place to ensure multi-stakeholder decision-making processes, including sub-national and non-state actors, as well as the devolvement of funds to the local level.”

Private sector companies, which also have representatives as GCF observers, want the funds transferred by the wealthy countries to cover their investments in clean development projects in developing countries, which they can claim as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Latin American delegates were missing in Songdo, since neither Mexican Senator Ernesto Cordero, a Board member, nor his alternate, Rodrigo Rojo, deputy director for International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Chile, was in attendance.

But that was not the only problem.

“The last meeting was disastrous for citizen participation. They shut us out of some discussions, like the definition of the business model, on the pretext that our organisations have no experience in these matters,” said Puentes.

Orenstein commented that “the countries that were the major obstacles were Australia and the U.S., who boast they are the champions of transparency. The real champions were Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and indeed Sweden. It was regressive; they vetoed the presence of civil society delegates in the most important discussions.”

In November 2012 almost 34 billion dollars in climate finance had been pledged, according to an analysis conducted by institutions in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Norway. Of this total, 28 million had been requested and/or budgeted by the executive bodies of the countries that have pledged the funds.

However, it is difficult to determine if these resources are genuinely “new and additional” and not part of previously allocated assistance or financing. Every country uses different instruments and channels resources through different schemes and institutions. It also is not clear if priority has been placed on adaptation measures in the most vulnerable countries.

The funds actually invested total barely three billion dollars.

On Jun. 24, the day before the last GCF Board meeting began, a large group of non-governmental organisations sent the Board a letter highlighting key issues regarding transparency and public participation and requesting that they be addressed at the meeting.

“The Board would benefit from having civil society participation given the vast expertise and experience found among the different groups and individuals that represent civil society,” the letter emphasised.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

 

Civil society organisation launched ‘let’s walk’ programme

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PUNE: The National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC) has launched “let’s walk” programme. In an appeal to citizens NSCC states, ” Each of us should walk a certain length of our neighbourhood. It doesn’t have to be very long -just 200 to 500 metres or so. As you walk, make a list of all that is wrong, any impediments that do not allow a smooth walk… such as hawkers, shop or building encroachments, sloping ramps, broken tiles, non-existent footpath etc”.

It added, ” Walk on the footpath on one side of the road and then come back walking on the other side of the road, making a list again. Mention a landmark from where you started and where you turned around. This is a review of the safety of your neighbourhood footpaths. Do it at least once a month. Give the list to your ward office at the next ward office meeting or go to your parisar samiti and report it. Also, do send your list by email at info.nscc@gmail.com”. NSCC members added that it compiles the complaints and sends them to the departments concerned.

” Most of us walk. In fact over 90% of Punekars walk. However, it’s so very difficult to walk on the footpaths of Pune. Imagine a senior citizen going for his morning walk, or a child walking to school.. She/ he can barely walk on the footpath. So they walk on the side of the road, where vehicles are parked and hence they are practically in the middle of the road”, the statement said. Let’s pressurise PMC to make it safe for Pedestrians to walk” stated NSCC press statement.

‘People must be educated on tackling natural calamities’

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New Delhi: Places that are prone to natural disasters must have a proper warning system in place and their residents should be educated on how to deal with crisis situations, experts said on Wednesday.
Experts, representatives of governments and the civil society from eight South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bhutan, participated in a three-day workshop on ‘Regional Priorities for Knowledge Management and Strategy for Action: South Asia on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction’ organised by Unesco.

Speaking to a news agency on the sidelines of the event which ended Wednesday, SAARC Disaster Management Centre director Santosh Kumar said it was of utmost importance that a proper early warning system was in place for areas that were prone to natural calamities and residents were educated and informed about tackling a crisis.
“Early warnings need to be more quantified and people should be educated about the impact of such a damage…local level communities have to be educated and informed,” he said.
Agreed Lam Dorji, executive director of Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan, who said that when it comes to natural disasters, people at the village level have no education on how to tackle the situation.
“Changes have to be made at the ground level,” he said.
Kumar said it was difficult to say whether climate change was behind the cloudburst and incessant rains which subsequently led to flash floods and landslides, killing hundreds in the hill state of Uttarakhand.

Indian cities air quality affected by economic development: Survey

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NEW DELHI: India’s economic developmenthas led to worsening of air quality in majorIndian cities, according to a new study published here today.
The survey was carried out by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in six major cities Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
The transport sector was ranked the highest followed by factories in and around the city as the second highest contributor towards air pollution in Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.
While respondents from Bangalore rated factories as the highest contributor of air pollution followed by transport, those in Hyderabad rated construction activities in the city as the worst offender followed by the transport sector.
The ‘TERI Environmental Survey 2013’ was conducted with a sample size of 4,039 respondents. Six themes were selected for the study — overall environment, air quality, water quality, forest/green cover, climate change, and waste and waste management.
“Air quality for the respondents in the six cities over time has either become worse or has seen no change. In terms of drinking water quality and availability, there is a perception that it has improved in all cities barring Hyderabad, where the respondents felt it has worsened,” the survey says.
“Rapid urbanisation has resulted in environmental degradation caused by increased pressures on the limited land available, leading to reduced open spaces, increased air and water pollution, and problems of waste disposal and its management. Various climate related changes pose additional stresses,” it says.
The study says surface water quality is seen to have worsened in all cities except Mumbai.
“Five cities have seen worsening of ground water availability (excluding Chennai) and tree and forest cover (excluding Mumbai), and all six cities have seen a decline in the number and species of birds and animals,” it says.
Respondents from Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad have seen deterioration of waste and waste management in their city, while respondents from Kolkata and Mumbai have seen an improvement.
“Our purpose is to see that issues related to environment and development get embedded in the consciousness of the people,” Director General of TERI, R K Pachauri said, while releasing the key findings.
Ligia Noronha, Executive Director, TERI said, “In order to bring about any improvements in environmental quality in metros, we need to align different interest groups – civil society, government, business.”