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Visakhapatnam Steel Plant continues to pollute sea with toxic effluents

Former power and finance secretary EAS Sarma says that the Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant continues to release toxic pollutants because the state pollution control board is not taking any action

Former power and finance secretary EAS Sarma has said that due to inaction from the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB), the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) is continuing to spew out pollutants into Appikonda Vagu that drains into the sea.

Mr Sarma, in a notice sent to Ravi Chandra, member secretary of APPCB, said,"...the toxic pollution caused by VSP is adversely impacting traditional fishing activity in the sea adjacent to the plant. APPCB which is the statutory authority to enforce the relevant environment laws has not cared to proceed against VSP".

"If anyone can visit the Appikonda Vagu and see the black colour of the water and its turbidity, he or she will understand how VSP is releasing effluents in a highly undesirable manner. The confluence of the stream with the sea has changed the colour of the sea water, discouraging traditional fishing which used to take place in the past," said Mr Sarma, who is also the convener of the Forum for Better Visakha (FBV).

According to the former power and finance secretary, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has given a poor environmental rating to the steel industry in general and to VSP in particular. CSE has also observed that VSP's poor record in containing pollution is primarily on account of APPCB's inaction, he said.

In his previous letter sent on 1 February 2011 to the then member secretary of APPCB, Mr Sarma said that the Visakhapatnam chapter of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had collected a sample of water from the channel draining waste water into the sea from VSP near Appikonda village. Here are the results of the lab testing:

According to Mr Sarma, the presence of lead in the waste water is worrisome, as the place where this water joins the sea is a site used by the local fishermen for fishing. Lead ingested fish can cause carcinogenic diseases. An independent water sample analysis carried out at this site not only confirmed the presence of lead and other solid pollutants, especially the presence of chromium, nickel and copper. I am not sure whether VSP's waste treatment plant is fully operative, he said.

Earlier in September 2001, the former secretary to the government of India sent a letter to the secretary in the ministry of environment and forests, complaining that the state level APPCB has neglected its responsibility to conduct public hearings on the basis of these environment assessment reports, apparently because officials have vested interest. (Companies procuring false environment impact reports, ministry overlooks fraud, says former top bureaucrat)


Govt unveils new trade policy aimed at boosting exports

India would be able to sustain 20% export growth in the current fiscal and to encourage exports the government had announced an interest subvention scheme which would give 2% interest subsidy to handlooms, handicrafts, carpets and SME sector

New Delhi: Amid global economic problems, the Indian government on Tuesday unveiled seven-point strategy to boost exports which include extension of interest subsidy scheme by one year till March 2013, reports PTI.

“We have now decided to extend the scheme (interest subvention) for another year till March 2013 and expand its coverage to include other labour-intensive sectors namely toys, sports goods, processed agricultural products and readymade garments”, commerce minister Anand Sharma said while releasing annual supplement to the Foreign Trade Policy in the capital.

“The underline philosophy of this year’s supplement is based on seven broad principles”, he said, adding these would include added thrust on employment-intensive industry and continuation of market diversification strategy.

The minister also exuded confidence that India would be able to sustain 20% export growth in the current fiscal. “It is our expectation that with these measures, we shall be able to sustain an annual export growth of 20% this fiscal,” he said.

India’s exports grew by 21% in 2011-12 to touch $303 billion.

To encourage exports, the government came out with an interest subvention scheme under which 2% interest subsidy was given to handlooms, handicrafts, carpets and SME sector.

The scheme, which has been extended by a year, was to end on March 2012.

The seven-pillars to boost exports, Mr Sharma said, would also include efforts to increase exports from the north-east region and provide incentive for manufacturing of green goods.

Besides, he said, there would be an “endeavour to reduce transaction cost through procedural simplification and reduction of human interface.”

Efforts, the minister said, would be made to promote technological upgradation of exports to retain a competitive edge in global markets and encourage domestic manufacturing for inputs to export industry, thus reducing dependence on imports.

On market diversification, Mr Sharma said, market-linked focus product scheme has been extended till the end of the current fiscal for exports to the US and European Union, in respect of apparel sector.

As regards the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), he said, “we will come out with new guidelines to make the operation of the SEZ policy more buoyant.”

Besides, the minister said the government would revamp the 100% Export Oriented Unit (EOU) scheme in the next few months.

In order to boost value-added exports and encourage technology upgradation, Mr Sharma said, the zero-duty EPCG (Export Promotion Credit Guarantee) scheme would be extended by an year to 31 March 2013.

The benefits under the scheme, he said, would also be available to those units which had taken benefits under the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS).

The EPCG scheme will also be available for those who had surrendered their benefits under the Status Holder Incentive Scrip (SHIS) scheme.

Following are the highlights of the supplementary annual Foreign Trade Policy:

* Government aiming 20% export growth in 2012-13
* 2% interest subsidy scheme extended till March 2013
* 0% duty EPCG scheme for technology up-gradation extended till March 2013
* Incentives for exports from north-eastern states
* Shipments from Delhi, Mumbai through post, courier or e-commerce to get export benefits
* Single revolving bank guarantee for different export deals
* Seven new markets added to Focus Market Scheme
* Market linked focus product scheme extended till March 2013 for apparel export to US and EU
* Ahmedabad, Kolhapur and Shaharanpur new Towns of Export Excellence
* Govt to come out with new guidelines to promote SEZs
* Focus on market diversification to continue
* Steps announced to reduce transaction cost of exports
* Foreign Trade Policy document made more user friendly
* 13 shows abroad to promote Brand India


Monsoon hits Kerala, finally

As of now the monsoonal flow is strong and Kerala and parts of South Karnataka will continue to get rains for the next two to three days

New Delhi: South-west monsoon, the key to the agriculture driven trillion-dollar Indian economy, on Tuesday brought showers to Kerala in South India bringing much-needed relief to farmers, reports PTI.

"Monsoon has reached Kerala," a top India Meteorological Department (IMD) official said.

Kerala usually receives monsoon showers by 1st June, but scientists said there was no need to paint a gloomy picture as the progress of the seasonal rainfall phenomenon was well with the forecast limits which have a model error of four days.

"As of now the monsoonal flow is strong and Kerala and parts of South Karnataka will continue to get rains for the next two to three days," D Sivananda Pai, Director, National Climate Centre and lead forecaster for monsoon, told PTI.

Pai said conditions were favourable for further advance of monsoon.

Monsoon watchers attribute the slight delay in the onset of monsoon to Typhoon Mawar which was active in western Pacific Ocean off the Philippines and sucking away moisture and wind currents to power itself.

The IMD declares the onset of monsoon over Kerala when 50% of the 14 observation stations in the state and Lakshadweep islands report rainfall for 48 hours.

Monsoon rains are crucial for agriculture as only 40% of the cultivable area is under irrigation. The farm sector contributes about only 15% to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it employs about 60 per cent of India's population.

On the back of good monsoon in 2010 and 2011, the country harvested a record foodgrains production of 245 million tonnes and 252.56 million tonnes, respectively.


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