Citizens' Issues
17 Indians to explore Antarctica for climate change impact
Bengaluru : About 150 explorers from 26 countries, including 17 young Indians, are sailing to Antarctica on Sunday on a 13-day expedition to study the impact of climate change due to global warming.
 
"The largest group of 150 men and women, including 17 from India, will cruise in a ship from Ushuaia, the world's southernmost town in Argentina, to the Antarctica Peninsula for exploring the icy continent around the South Pole," expedition coordinator Samantha Van Ruiten told IANS.
 
The eight women and nine men from India are students, techies, researchers, executives and members of non-government organisations (NGOs), with a common cause to save the planet from ill-effects of greenhouse emissions, urbanisation, over consumption and changing lifestyle.
 
"Antarctica provides an ideal setting for the expedition to know first-hand the fallout of climate change and feel how temperature rises on its icy landscape due to greenhouse gases and other emissions from chimneys, highways, fossil fuels and waste in developed and developing countries across other continents," Samantha said ahead of the mission under the "Leadership on the Edge" programme.
 
Though there was an overwhelming response to the 2041 Foundation's call to embark on the ecological mission, only 150 were selected keeping in view logistics and resources, health and environmental concerns over the flora and fauna of the 14 million km uninhabited and ice-covered landmass below South America.
 
The first expedition in 2003 had just 42 adventurers from 18 countries and the 2015 expedition 110 members from 22 countries worldwide.
 
"I am excited to visit Antarctica though far away, coldest, driest and windiest in the southern hemisphere, as it gives me an opportunity to explore the unknown continent and study the impact of global warming on its fragile ecosystem," 28-year-old D. Chandrika, a member of the International Antarctica Expedition (IAE 2016), told IANS from Pune.
 
Headed by veteran polar explorer and renowned British environmentalist Robert Swan and hosted by the US-based Foundation, the expedition from March 13 to 25 will focus on promoting renewable energy sources, environmental sustainability and climate preservation.
 
"As promotion of green energy and clean technologies worldwide is a major objective of this expedition, our assessment of the impact will make nations combat climate change and reduce global warming to protect the environment by framing sound policies," Chandrika, an astrophysicist and India officer of University of Gottingen in Germany, asserted.
 
Swan, 60, an OBE (Order of British Empire) and first person to set foot on North Pole and South Pole in 1989, had set up the 2041 Foundation to preserve Antarctica by promoting recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat affects of climate change.
 
The Foundation was set up in 1991 when the protocol on environment protection issued a moratorium banning drilling and mining in Antarctica. The 50-year protocol is due for review in 2041, as per the Antarctica Treaty System international agreement signed in 1959 to govern human activity in the continent.
 
"The 2041 mission is to build on Swan's dedication by informing, engaging and inspiring generation of leaders to take responsibility, lead sustainable life, contribute to policy development and do what it takes to preserve the last great wilderness on earth," Samantha pointed out.
 
Rohan Sood, 26, a techie from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, is raring to skate and trek on the icy terrain for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the world's bottom where average temperatures hover around minus 10 to minus 5 degrees Celsius in six months of summer from October to March and sink lower to minus 20 to minus 35 degrees Celsius in six months of winter from April to September.
 
"There is an urgent need to create global awareness on saving our planet from the dangers of global warming and climate change by conserving resources, using renewable energy and going green with eco-friendly materials," Sood told IANS.
 
Though based in Dubai as an engineer with Japanese industrial electronics product firm Anritsu, Sood is a globe trotter, having visited 18 countries across five continents and worked on community projects in Sri Lanka and Slovenia.
 
"It's humbling to be on the expedition to protect the environment and preserve the fragile eco-system for the benefit of humankind. As saving the earth from global warming and climate change is a responsibility of everyone and every nation, we need to work together for sustaining life itself," Sood noted.
 
Hyderabad-based Aarti Rao, 25, a member of the Third Pole Foundation Swan mentored in 2013 at Leh as part of the Global Himalayan Expedition, is upbeat on flying across three continents to reach the planet's edge for a lifetime adventure.
 
"I was inspired to join the expedition by Swan and other explorers like Robert Scott to be the change we want to bring about in families, companies, communities and countries. It's time for action in policy development, sustainable business and designing future technologies," Rao, an engineering graduate, told IANS.
 
According to a British survey, Antarctica has 90 percent of the earth's ice and 70 percent of fresh water, thanks to an underwater torrent of one trillion tonnes that develops in the Weddell Sea every hour. The mass of salty brine formed by freezing of the ocean floor set off a global current system.
 
"Our expedition creates ambassadors for education, environment and sustainability across the globe. To protect Antarctica and the rest of our planet, we must inspire leaders to return home and create change at personal, community and corporate levels and beyond," Samantha added.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Protect your Family from Mobile Tower Radiation
Citizens must demand that the standard for radiation through mobile towers should be similar to the practice across the world and not 100 times higher leading to health disasters among residents, advocates Prakash Munshi
 
Indian government and the authorities are silently killing gullible citizens with huge dose of radiations from mobile towers. Instead of patting themselves for using norms lower than what is prescribed by an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), they should cut down the power of radiation from such towers to save Indian citizens, say Prakash Munshi. He was speaking at Moneylife Foundation on the ill-effects of mobile tower radiation. Mr Munshi has been creating awareness on health hazards from electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) radiation emanating from mobile towers antennae and advising precautionary measures to protect citizens.
 
"In September 2012, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) came out with revised guidelines adopting one tenth of the norms set by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an NGO. However, even these lower norms are far higher than norms followed by other countries, like Australia, France and UK. Revision in norms should have been done to reduce health hazards to citizens by reducing actual radiation levels and not norms. This could have been easily achieved by reducing the permitted power from the antennae to 10% or reducing the maximum power transmitted per antenna/site to 2watts instead of 20watts per antenna," says Mr Munshi, who prefers to be called as a concerned citizen and not an activist.
 
 
Mr Munshi is on a mission to educate users on the perils of mobile phone radiation, along with Bollywood actor Juhi Chawla. With 4G technology making an entry on to mobile space, Mr Munshi feels there is an urgent need to have transparency and public knowledge of radiation emitted by mobile towers. He said, one can reduce exposure to EMF radiation by avoiding using mobile phone or cordless phones for long. If there is a mobile tower near your home or office, first convince the operators to reduce transmitted power. If this is not possible, then go for removal of the tower from that location. If both fail, then install shields on all your windows. The shields or mesh should be made from steel or copper, Mr Munshi added.
 
He said, "What the Indian government is saying is they cut the standard to 450 milliwatts (mW) per sq metre for a frequency of 900Mhz (for 1,800Mhz and 2,100 Mhz and above, it is 9000 mW and 10,000 mW, respectively) and hence there is no violation from the cellular operators. But we want that standard to be reduced to match with what is followed in other countries. This is not happening. And at some places like the infamous Haji Ali Juice Centre, we found radiation levels above 100mW, when checked randomly, and without informing the operators."
 
"What is more shocking is there are simply no norms for clusters of antennae installed in India. Such clusters are not seen anywhere in the world, except India," he added.
 
Mr Munshi pointed out to a report from a magazine that has quoted, Michael Repacholi, Founder Chairman of ICNIRP. In the report, Mr Repacholi, stated that India has made a political decision and not health-based decision to adopt one tenth of ICNIRP norms. "Base stations RF (radio frequency) signals are normally extremely low, some 100s to 1000s of times below ICNIRP limits. However, if base stations are removed then coverage is lost and people will not be able to make calls. Alternatively, if base stations and the mobile phone try to increase their signal strength so the person using the phone is subjected to much higher RF levels. In addition, people living near base stations that have to increase their signal to communicate with the mobile will also receive higher RF exposures," Mr Repacholi said in an interview to Infrastructure Today.
 
Even the 53rd Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, in its report had stated, "The Committee strongly deprecates the lackadaisical approach of the Department of Telecommunications which is the nodal department for expansion and modernization of mobile telephony.” 
 
Mr Munshi says, "Although France and Australia follow the extremely high norms their actual levels of radiation are much lower than the Italy, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Lithuania, cited by the DoT before the Committee. The actual radiation level in France is at 20mW sq metre for 97% of mobile tower antennae there. According to Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the country has actual radiation levels ranging from 0.904mW/m2 to 150.99 mW/m2 for the combined radiation from individual base stations." In India, the radiation levels are hundreds of times more.
 
 
Mr Munshi then explained health hazards due to EMF radiation, caused by mobile towers and precautions to take to protect people living near such locations. He said even the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its press release in 31 May 2011, stated that WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields at possible carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.
 
 
Participating in a debate, Rajan S Mathews, Director General of Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), told Mr Munshi that EMF radiation from mobile tower antennae is classified under group 2B “possibly carcinogenic” just like pickles and coffee. To this, Mr Munshi replied saying, "But I do have a choice whether to eat pickle or coffee. Citizens don’t have any choice on the radiation penetrating their residences 24x7. Health is our fundamental right and cannot be sacrificed for wealth of a few individuals and corporates.”
 
 
Talking about the latest blame game for call drops, the COAI is saying that this is happening because of lower signal levels as we have adopted a standard that is one tenth of the international standard of radiation. Mr Munshi, says, "It is incorrect to say that call drops are due to reduction in norms. Norms are only on paper. The actual radiation levels at the ground level did not change with the change in norms on 1 September 2012. Mr R Chandrashekhar, former Secretary of DoT has mentioned on a TV debate that 95% of the mobile tower antennae in India were below the reduced norms as on September 2012."
 
Even TRAI Chairman RS Sharma has blamed telecom companies for call drops. “The problem has increased in the past 5-6 months. In this time the spectrum has not shrunk suddenly. In fact, if at all, more spectrum has been made available. At the same time the customer base is growing at a steady rate,” Mr Sharma was quoted in a news report.
 
Mr Munshi says the government, authorities and mobile operators say there is no conclusive evidence of the ill-effects of mobile tower radiations. Citing the precautionary principle from laws of the European Union, he said, "If an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. Why the Indian government follow the same principle and ask mobile companies to reduce power of transmission similar to global practice, he questions. 

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COMMENTS

snvaidya

9 months ago

Congratulations for posting this important article on the subject. Not many people are aware of what is happening in this field and the harm being done to the public by intense microwave radiation.

Dr. S. N. Vaidya

Ralph Rau

9 months ago

The Mobile Phone spells disaster! For a long and healthy life depend on your land line and try to avoid your mobile phone - especially when near a landline.

Sankaranarayanan Vaitheeswaran

9 months ago

Thanks to Mr. Munshi for the informative and educative presentation. However, it is really disheartening to note that we are in a choiceness situation waiting to get ill-health due to this radiation. When I sit in my terrace and look around, it is really a horrifying scene - we are surrounded by such towers from all the four sides. Every third building which is slightly taller has the big microwave tower with discs projecting in almost all directions.
What we cannot measure - we cannot monitor. So, if we have to monitor and report to the government or any other authorities of the levels of radiation, then we should be equipped with some means to measure them.
Are there any simple devices which we can buy and use to determine the levels ?.

sunil kumar

9 months ago

sir,which department of Govt should be responsible - Telecom/IT/Heathcare or any other

dilip mody

9 months ago

Can you give details like size,etc of

Mesh to be installed on the windows please.

Thanks,
Dilip Mody

Home Ministry still refuses transparency in selection process of Padma Awards
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), traditionally made public, the complete selection-process for Padma awards just after their announcement on Republic Day. Since the last two years, it refused information under RTI. CIC has directed the MHA to provide the information within four weeks
 
Delhi-based right to information (RTI) activist, Subhashchandra Agrawal, had filed RTI applications in 2014 and 2015, seeking information from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 27 points pertaining to Padma Awards. These included, list of nominations received in the Ministry within the stipulated date along with names of those recommending nominations; authority through which MHA received such nominations; dates on which such nominations were received by the MHA; names of Search Committee Members; names considered by the  Search  and names recommended by the Search Committee.
 
The Public Information Officer (PIO) refused information on the grounds that some of the information was secretive in nature, some of it is not maintained in the office and that, the records have not been updated as yet and therefore information can be provided only in March or April when the Padma awards are given away.
 
Agrawal filed a second appeal in the office of Information Commissioner, Sudhir Bhargava in Delhi. The order on 16 February 2016, by him, makes it mandatory for the Ministry to provide all the information within four weeks of the order which would be mid-April.
 
Information must be made public on Republic Day itself:
 
The Commission after hearing both the parties and perusing the records observed that the name of the Padma awardees are declared on the Republic Day and information is uploaded on the website, hence, the information comes in public domain on the Republic Day itself. 
“Therefore, all information related to declaration of Padma Awards is part of the records as well as is under the control of the MHA and comes under the definition of ‘information’ as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.”
 
Non-completion of process no reason for denial of information:
 
“Once, an applicant seeks information as defined in Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, the CPIO, as per Section 7 of the RTI Act shall either provide the information or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the Act and cannot add or introduce new reasons or grounds for rejecting furnishing of information.” 
 
“However, the only reason put forth by the respondent in not providing the information is the non-completion of the process as the conferment of Padma Awards is done in March/April every year. The CPIO, is, therefore, unable to show any exemptions under the stated provisions of Sections 8 or 9 of the RTI Act under which the information can be denied. It being so, there is no ground for denying the information and the CPIO should furnish the same to the appellant.” 
“The Commission, therefore, directs the respondent to provide information to the appellant as sought by him in his RTI application dated 27 January 2015. With regard to the second appeal dated 12 May 2014, the Commission directs the CPIO to provide part information as sought in point nos. 17 and 24 of the RTI application to the appellant.”
 
“CIC directs MHA to restore practice of making public selection-process for Padma awards just after Republic Day (see attachments)”.
 
When contacted by Moneylife, Agrawal says, “There was a healthy practice in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to make public complete selection-process for Padma awards just after their announcement on Republic Day when quizzed through an RTI petition filed on the following day on 27th January. But suddenly MHA declined information on RTI petitions filed on 27th January by taking excuse that ‘process is not complete and over’ meaning thereby that such information would be disclosed only after honouring done by President of India in a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan (New Delhi) sometime in March-April! Names of those recommending for Padma awards for the year 2015 could not be made public even after more than one year even though record-retention-schedule for selection-process is just one year.” 
 
Central Information Commission now through its various verdicts dated 16 February 2016 has directed MHA to restore practice of making public selection-process of Padma awards just after Republic Day. Newly appointed Central Information Commissioner having given the multiple verdicts in this regard deserves all compliments for his bold verdicts against MHA,” he added.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)

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