Delhi citizens force Centre to rethink tree cutting
The vehement and continuing protests of citizens against the proposed felling of trees to make way for redevelopment of seven government colonies has succeeded in forcing the Centre to reconsider their plan. The construction agencies of the government will now rework the design of the layouts in a manner that will not require any trees to be cut.
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Earlier, the High Court had imposed a stay till July 4th on the cutting of trees for developing the residential colonies, questioning the Centre’s decision. The court asked NBCC (India) Ltd, the state-owned real estate company entrusted with the redevelopment, “Can Delhi afford to cut off trees for the development of roads and buildings?”
The current decision of the government, as well as the High Court stance, may well be seen as a victory for Delhi’s eco-conscious citizens who have been waging a relentless battle against the earlier proposed plan. Across the city, they held protests – hugging trees, singing and walking in demonstrations, in a movement that has been widely hailed as evocative of the Chipko movement.
Delhi High Court strikes down Metro staffers’ strike
Ruling that their plan did not appear to be ‘justified or legal’, the Delhi High Court restrained nearly 9000 non-executive staffers of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) from going on strike over various demands, including pay-scale revision and promotions. At a late hearing in response to an urgent petition moved by the DMRC, on the eve of the proposed strike (June 30), the Court noted that the Delhi Metro provided a public utility service to around 25 lakh citizens on a daily basis, and that sufficient notice had not been given to the Corporation. In view of the above, the Court granted ad-interim relief as sought in the application, prohibiting workers to strike till further orders were issued in the matter.
Earlier reports indicated that around 9000 non-executive staff, like train operators, station controllers, maintenance staff and technicians, had been holding protests at metro stations since June 19th. Their demands included the conversion of the DMRC Staff Council to a DMRC employees union, as also implementation of Industrial Dearness Allowance (IDA) as per the 3rd pay revision scale. The strike, if implemented, would have paralysed Metro services, the lifeline of Delhi commuters. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had indicated that he was ready to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), if necessary, to stop the strike.
Swachh Survekshan rankings questioned by experts
On June 23rd, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented awards to the top states, cities and organizations ranked in the Swachh Survekshan 2018 at a function held in Indore.
Earlier in May, the Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs had released state-wise and city-wise cleanliness rankings under the Swachh Survekshan 2018, based on a study of 4203 cities across the country. Indore and Bhopal, both in Madhya Pradesh, retained the No 1 and No 2 positions from last year, followed by Chandigarh at No 3.
Among the states, Jharkhand was adjudged the best performer followed by Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Mumbai won the award for the cleanest capital city while Navi Mumbai bagged the prize for Best City in Solid Waste Management.
The rankings, however, have not been above controversy. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has come down heavily on the rankings, pointing out that only cities that are visibly clean have been awarded, even while many of them do not have adequate or appropriate back-end systems to process the waste.
Eleven out of the top 50 cities are from Madhya Pradesh. Though, collection has drastically improved in these cities, segregation at source, processing and disposal is still a concern. In fact, according to the CSE analysis, most of the cities in the top 50 do not collect segregated waste at source.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE said that cities must shift their focus towards creating end-to-end systems to support segregation with effective processing and disposal mechanisms.
Six new Metro projects in the anvil and a panel for standards
Six cities – Delhi (Phase IV), Indore, Bhopal, Kanpur, Agra and Meerut – have received in-principle nod from the government for metro rail projects under the New Metro Policy. Similar approval has been granted to the Delhi-Meerut stretch of Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS). These projects will now have to seek financial approval from the Public Investment Board (PIB) of the Finance Ministry, since all of them will require certain funding from the Central government.
The approvals came in a day after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his nod to a proposal to set up a committee that would lay down standards for metro rail systems in the country. The committee will be headed by E Sreedharan, who served as the managing director of Delhi Metro from 1995 to 2012, and is also known as the “Metro Man” for his brilliant track record in that stint.
Water crisis: One more alarm call for 21 cities, this time from Niti Aayog
21 Indian cities – including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad – will run out of groundwater by 2020, says the recently released ‘Composite Water Management Index’ (CWMI) report from government think tank Niti Aayog. The report calls for “immediate action” and “urgent and improved” management of water resources, as the scarcity is also expected to affect food security.
The report also points out that currently 600 million Indians face high-to-extreme water and about 200,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
Cabinet approves MoU with Singapore for urban planning
The Union Cabinet has formally approved a Memorandum of Understanding signed between India and Singapore in May 2018, which will facilitate government agencies and municipal bodies in India to tap into expertise offered by Singaporean agencies in urban development and management. Capacity building programmes in the field of urban planning, water and waste water management, solid waste management, intelligent transport systems and public financing (public private partnerships) would be the areas of focus under the MoU.