Recycling metal scrap is the way towards greener environment

The Statesman | Rajat Kapoor | May 21, 2019

Metal recycling awareness, unlike plastic and paper, is low in India. Nevertheless, the recycling of metals has as important to improve the environment as recycling paper, plastic and other commonly recycled materials.

Taking a breath in a green environment is every human being’s basic right. Human race can’t survive in a polluted environment. The air that goes in our lungs, the water that we drink and the food that we eat should be pure and fresh or else we will not be able to hold our lifespan. The rise in global temperature is continuously leading to an increase in sea levels and many coastlines are going underwater.  There is a dire need to take conscious efforts towards this direction or else the face of the earth could be dangerous in the coming time. Read more

नक्सल हिंसा से विस्थापित आदिवासियों की होगी घर वापसी, केंद्र कराएगा सर्वे

Dainik Jagran | May 16, 2019

दक्षिण बस्तर में 2005-06 में नक्सली हिंसा और इसके विरोध में उठे सलवा जुडूम आंदोलन के दौरान पड़ोसी राज्यों में विस्थापित हुए आदिवासियों का मामला केंद्र सरकार तक पहुंच गया है। विस्थापितों की छत्तीसगढ़ में वापसी की कोशिशों में लगी संस्था सीजी नेट स्वरा ने 623 विस्थापित आदिवासी परिवारों की सूची केंद्रीय आदिम जाति कल्याण (ट्राइबल) मंत्रालय को सौंपी है। केंद्र सरकार ने सूची में शामिल परिवारों की पहचान करने, उन्होंने किन परिस्थितियों में पलायन किया, क्या वे वापस बस्तर जाना चाहते हैं, आदि तथ्यों की जांच करने को कहा है।

तीन जिलों में रहा सलवा जुडूम का आंदोलन का प्रभाव
आदिवासियों को वनाधिकार कानून के तहत वापस उनके मूल गांवों में लाने की कोशिश की जाएगी। ज्ञात हो कि बस्तर के तीन जिलों दंतेवाड़ा, सुकमा और बीजापुर में सलवा जुडूम आंदोलन का प्रभाव रहा। सुकमा और बीजापुर जिलों की सीमा तेलंगाना से जुड़ी है। जुडूम के दौरान नक्सलियों ने बदला लेने के लिए आदिवासियों पर हमले किए। कोंटा इलाके के दरभागुड़ा में जुडूम समर्थकों से भरा ट्रक उड़ा दिया था। एर्राबोर समेत अन्य जुडूम कैंपों पर हमले किए।

विस्‍थापितों का आंकड़ा किसी सरकार के पास नहीं
जुडूम समर्थक भी इस दौरान अंदरूनी गांवों में जाकर ग्रामीणों को परेशान करते थे। दो पाटों के बीच फंसे आदिवासियों ने तब बार्डर पार आंध्र और तेलंगाना के जंगलों में शरण ली। पड़ोसी राज्यों में बस्तर के कितने विस्थापित हैं इसका सही आंकड़ा न छत्तीसगढ़ के पास है न तेलंगाना और आंध्र सरकार के पास। केंद्रीय ट्राइबल मंत्रालय के इस मामले में दखल से अब विस्थापितों की घर वापसी का रास्ता तय हो सकता है।

विस्‍थापितों की हालत खराब
तेलंगाना से भगाए जा रहे विस्थापित करीब 150 गांवों के तीन हजार परिवार ऐसे हैं जो बार्डर पार जंगलों में बसे हैं। वे बेहद खराब हालात में रह रहे हैं। पिछले महीने तेलंगाना के भद्रादरी कोटागुडेम जिले के मुलकुलापल्ली ब्लॉक के रसनगुडेम में वन विभाग के अफसर पहुंचे और आदिवासियों से जंगल छोड़ने को कहा। दो महीने पहले इसी इलाके में पुलिस के साथ पहुंचे वन अफसरों ने आदिवासियों के 58 घर तोड़ दिए थे।

डरे हुए हैं आदिवासी
सीजी नेट स्वरा के संस्थापक शुभ्रांशु चौधरी ने कहा कि आदिवासी घर वापसी करना चाहते हैं पर वे डरे हुए हैं। उनमें से ज्यादातर का मूल गांव बस्तर के उन जंगलों में है जो नक्सल प्रभाव वाले इलाके हैं। आदिवासी चाहते हैं कि सरकार उन्हें उनके गांव की जमीन के बदले सुरक्षित इलाके में जीवन यापन लायक जमीन दे।

वनाधिकार कानून का पेच
विस्थापित आदिवासियों के मामले में वनाधिकार कानून का भी पेच फंस रहा है। 12 दिसंबर 2005 के पहले वनभूमि में बसे लोगों को वनाधिकार पट्टा देने का कानून है। इसके लिए जरूरी है कि संबंधित व्यक्ति उसी जमीन पर लगातार काबिज रहे। आदिवासी 15 साल से अपनी जमीन छोड़कर गए हैं तो उन्हें वनाधिकार कानून का फायदा मिलेगा या नहीं यह दिक्कत है। केंद्र के दखल के बाद इसका भी हल निकलने की उम्मीद है।

Coal ‘stained with Colombian blood’ is bought and sold in Dublin

The Irish Times | Sorcha Pollak | May 11, 2019

Ireland is directly sponsoring climate chaos and human-rights violations, critics claim

Hidden away among the rolling hills of northern Colombia, nestled between Caribbean white sand beaches and the Venezuelan border, is a vast stretch of arid land known as El Cerrejon. There the largest open-cast coal mine in Latin America (and one of the largest in the world), its hub stretching for 40 miles, extracts coal for use in prosperous countries across the western world.

More than 7,600km away, in view of Dublin’s St Patrick’s cathedral and just steps from the popular Fumbally cafe, is the headquarters of CMC-Coal Marking. Inside this nondescript grey building on Dublin’s New Street South, a small office co-ordinates the sale and delivery of millions of tons of coal from the Cerrejon mine to energy operators worldwide.

Its work includes supplying the Moneypoint power station in Co Clare, where almost 90 per cent of the coal comes from Colombia. Two-thirds of the coal burned in Moneypoint comes directly from Cerrejon.

Local children are suffering from skin infections, and women have a much higher rate of developing breathing problems or breast cancer
On a recent visit to Dublin, Jakeline Romero Epiayu sips tea in the Central Hotel’s Library Bar on Exchequer Street. She has come from a meeting with members of the Oireachtas at Government buildings, and is preparing for a series of engagements with human rights and environmental groups before flying back to Latin America.

Since the Cerrejon mine began operating in 1985, Epiayu, an indigenous Wayuu woman from the La Guajira region, has witnessed her ancestors’ land deteriorate into wasteland with the production and exportation of 32 million tonnes of coal per year. In the process 35 indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been forced from their lands.

More recently, she says, the coal industry’s over-reliance on river water in the area, combined with a lack of rain, has led to drought, and resulted in the death of more than 20,000 cattle.

“What little water is left is contaminated by metals; it’s no longer suitable for human consumption or animals,” says Epiayu. “Obviously if there’s no water left this will negatively affect the social, cultural and economic fabric of the society. The mining is condemning our people to a life of poverty.”

Jakeline Romero Epiayu: “The mining is condemning our people to a life of poverty”
Mining activity has not only destroyed La Guajira’s natural environment and cut off its communities’ access to safe, clean drinking water, but has also led to a rise in malnutrition, illnesses and deaths among the local population, says Epiayu.

In 2015, the Shipia Wayuu indigenous organisation reported that 4,700 children had died of hunger between 2010 and 2015, while Human Rights Watch says at least 193 children under the age of five died due to malnutrition between 2013 and 2017.

In its report into the area Human Rights Watch found communities had limited access to food and water, and warned of the government’s failure to root out local corruption in the area.

“Children are suffering from skin infections, and women in the area have a much higher rate of developing breathing problems or breast cancer. The mining is destroying the natural environment and water sources, but also uses too much dynamite and chemicals in its activities. It has broken the social fabric of our communities.”

She says the majority of coal produced in Cerrejon is not used in Colombia, but ends up across Europe, Asia and in the US. “They believe it’s okay to stop producing coal in their own country but to buy it from another region. The people of Europe are consuming energy stained with our blood.

“We’re seeing children die of malnutrition, and access to water is almost impossible. Our only river has been destroyed by mining activities. They’ve given us a slow death sentence.”

The Colombian government is in the pocket of the miners and paramilitaries, according to Prof Aviva Chomsky. ‘It really is a perfect storm that’s hit populations there’
While certain Wayúu communities affected by the mining have been relocated to homes in more urban areas, the vast majority of resettlement projects have failed, according to Prof Aviva Chomsky from the Salem University of Massachusetts, US. Deforestation, the diversion of rivers and overuse of water have all contributed to the drought in the area, she adds.

Paramilitary violence and intimidation towards groups resisting coal extraction is also a real problem in the region, says Chomsky, who has campaigned for greater accountability around mining activities for more than 20 years.

“The mine’s union has been subject to numerous threats and attacks, and a number of leaders were assassinated in the early 2000s. They’re still under threat. The paramilitaries have remobilised and they’re very powerful in the region.

“There’s no government authority to turn to. The national government is totally in the pocket of the miners and paramilitaries. It really is a perfect storm that’s hit populations there.

Chomsky says US companies moved towards Colombian coal, which is “cleaner” and has a lower sulphur and nitrogen content, because of environmental regulations. European countries are doing the same thing.

“The US is seeing reductions in carbon emissions because we’ve off-shored production. Those of us in the first world need to restructure our economies so that we consume less and so that people in the third world can at least have access to clean water and vaccinations – things we take for granted.”

Every piece of coal from the Cerrejón mine is bought and sold through an office off Fumbally Lane in Dublin. What will make a difference is taking a strong political stance
A system of restorative justice is needed to protect the Wayúu people and other workers at the mine, say Chomsky, adding that if the mine suddenly shut tomorrow 10,000 people would be left without jobs.

“It’s not just that we stop mining coal. There has to be a process by those who caused the problem for those who are victims of coal production. We’re all beneficiaries of this unjust system, we all have a responsibility to the people who have been harmed by it.”

Sian Cowman from the Latin America Solidarity Centre says the Irish Government should not only cease importing coal from the Cerrejon mine but take a “strong political stance” on the human rights abuses towards those living in the region.

Ireland is complicit in the Cerrejon’s coal production in two ways, says Cowman.

“There’s the purchase of coal by the ESB for energy production in Moneypoint and then there’s the fact that Cerrejon’s global sales company CMC has its international headquarters in Dublin. Every piece of coal from the Cerrejón mine is bought and sold through an office off Fumbally Lane.

“Ireland only purchases a relatively small amount of this coal and somebody else will come in and buy it if we leave. But what will make a difference is taking a symbolic, strong political stance on human rights that will make other purchasers think twice.”

Cowman also accuses the Government of “real hypocrisy” in offering support for the Colombian peace process while turning a blind eye to the treatment of workers in the northern mining area.

Speaking in the Dail in April, Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe underlined that a “key component” of the Colombian peace process was land rights, and that the importation of coal from Cerrejon “directly undermines” Ireland’s solidarity with the process.

“Ireland is directly sponsoring climate chaos, environmental destruction and human rights violations through its continued reliance on Colombian coal,” said Crowe.

Asked to comment on the alleged human rights abuses in the La Guajira region, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the new Irish Embassy in Bogotá was “following the situation closely”, and that officials plan to visit the mine and meet with local human rights groups.

He said while “significant challenges remain”, Ireland was “fully committed to support Colombia’s transitions to a peaceful post-conflict society”.

ESB, which is 95 per cent State-owned, noted in a statement its decision to join the Bettercoal group in 2014 as part of its “commitment to use responsibly-sourced coal”.

The statement said a 2016 Bettercoal assessment of the Cerrejón mine, and visits to the site in 2018, found the mine’s operating principles were in line with best practice codes. A continuous improvement plan had been drafted to enhance compliance with the Bettercoal code.

It said ESB representatives recently visited the mine, and would remain “vigilant” to the issues raised during the assessment. ESB felt “encouraged” by the positive engagement between Bettercoal and management at Cerrejón. However, there was a “continued challenge to reaching agreements within the community”.

We have made significant efforts to improve the living conditions of the families while respecting their values, traditions and how they see the future
The Dublin-registered CMC company – which is owned by Glencore, Anglo American and BHP – did not respond to questions, but forwarded the queries to the Cerrejón company in Colombia, which also referenced the Bettercoal assessment of the site.

On community displacement, a company spokeswoman said the mining group had carried out all land purchases “in good faith”, and had paid fair prices above market value for land.

“We have made significant efforts to improve the living conditions of the families while respecting their values, traditions and how they see the future,” she said. “This has been a learning process both for the communities and for Cerrejón.”

She said the arrival of immigrants from Venezuela and the 2014-2016 drought, which was caused by the El Nino phenomenon, had placed increased pressure on the region, and led to the collapse of its health system.

Cerrejón had “continuously requested the authorities prioritise care for children in indigenous communities”, the spokeswoman said, adding that the company had been actively involved in initiatives to address water shortages.

For Epiayu it’s vital that people in Ireland know where their coal is coming from.

“What we’re trying to do is show people what our daily life is like; how the mining has taken away our land, destroyed the local environment and destroyed our water sources. These corporations carry out investigations where they talk about meeting international standards. But our independent investigations show different results.

“The mining company is using a strategy to tire people out and force them to lose hope in life. It’s all part of the systemic abuse of our human rights.

“The government is also responsible; it’s part of a system which promotes the extraction of coal to make it easier for foreign companies to work out of Colombia.

“Civil society has a responsibility to question the energy that we consume; where does it come from, how does it get here?

“Irish people should realise that this coal is being bought and sold here in Dublin. We’ve suffered 25 years of exploitation. We never wanted to work in the mines, but that’s the reality we face today.”

West Bengal: Out-of-job miners mull NOTA to protest curbs on illegal mining

Business Standard | April 28, 2019

Illegal coal mining is considered to be ‘parallel economy in the industrial town belt of Asansol and its surrounding areas’

With a halt on illegal mining since the elections were announced, miners who work in hundreds of these high-risk narrow pits to dig out coal for a living have been jobless and say they will opt for NOTA when they go to vote on Monday as a mark of protest.

Mining, both legal and illegal, is common in the Ranigunj-Asansol coal belt in West Bengal and in many cases, the coal mafia engage poor people in illegal work for a low wage. Read more

Illegal mining forces Raniganj residents to eat now and die tomorrow

Down To Earth | Sukanya Saha | April 26, 2019

Villages in Asansol-Raniganj coal belt, which go to polls on April 29, 2019, stand on precarious land that might collapse any day, but the government doesn’t care

Raniganj, a part of the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal that goes to polls on April 29, 2019, is tightly caught in the clutches of illegal mining and has nobody to rescue them. Pollution, subsidence and poor resource management are pushing the area towards a dystopian future and yet no authority is bothered to help.

After Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd (CIL), abandoned mining pits and inclines spread over 1,500 square kilometres decades ago, the area was taken over by mafias. And being remote, the coal belt was never regularly inspected or monitored by law enforcement agencies. This helped the cartels gain power over the lives of the villagers.

And now it’s happening so unabashedly that often, along the roads of Raniganj, there are processions of ragtag men seen carrying large quantities of coal on their bicycles and in small vans.

“The plunder takes place regularly under the nose of the local police and ECL authorities, who have turned a blind eye to protect the interests of the unlawful miners and there is no one else to challenge this illegal operation,” says Bishwarup Nagpal, a tailor in the village.

A study even pointed out that roof collapses, water logging, land inundation and leakage of poisonous gas have since become regular features and have killed several villagers.

“A group of us [in 2017-end] went to the ECL head office at Sanctoria to demonstrate the severity of the situation and demand that they salvage the area. The next week, the officers came to inspect it, but no action was taken,” said a shopkeeper from Shivadanga village in east Raniganj who has been living there for more than two decades.

Trapped for livelihood

Soon, the mines became the only source of livelihood for locals, while making the area unsafe to live in. The inhabitants, mostly Santhals, are aware of the potential dangers they are creating for their community by working in the mines. But, they had no option but to work there at lower-most rung.

Illegal mining and coal pilferage have left the villagers with no other source of livelihood either. They cannot depend on agriculture, sericulture or fishing. They are forced to join the illegal sector as a substitute to subsistence agriculture and a way to earn money quickly.

“We cannot depend upon agriculture. Our land is gone. So people with fewer skills are often trapped in the curious cycle of need and greed,” says Pushpak Das, a resident of the area.

A shopkeeper, while requesting anonymity, narrates one such example. “Two brothers living in our neighborhood died last year. The top layer of the ground subsided while they were working inside. Their bodies could not be found. Their families left the village a month later. No one knows where they are settled now. They had stopped talking to us once the men started working in the illegal sector,” he says.

Ratibati, an underground mine in the coal belt, saw several small wells being dug up, each nearly 40 to 50 feet deep. “Labourers are hired on low wages, as much as for Rs 50-70 per day, to go down the mines and work. But surprisingly there are no records of how many come back as there were several reports of them dying in there,” adds Nagpal.

According to news reports, most accidents go unreported and are quickly covered up. The victim’s families are not even allowed to claim the dead bodies as that might expose the illegal operations.

Ground reality

The scale of the unplanned and unmethodical mining is such that underground water table is what’s holding the ground. Once the hydrostatic pressure is disturbed, the entire region will sink, say experts.

Moreover, the ECL’s plan did not have any mention of these illicit practices or of measures to prevent them. “The only step ECL has taken so far is plating trees near residential quarters of its important executives,” says Das.

Every year, Shivadanga witnesses monsoon wash away not just dust from tree leaves, but also buildings’ foundations, say residents while adding that after every cloudburst, the land begins to give in, houses develop cracks, farmlands sink and the wells run dry.

“The fact is that beneath the thin crust of the surface lies a labyrinth of vacant galleries. And when the feeble land crumbles, like trees, the entire 35,000-plus population will cave into the gorges,” says Nagpal.

Apart from subsidence, unscrupulous mining causes air pollution, contamination of water, noise pollution and above all changes in modes of land use due to reduction of suitable area for agriculture. These changes also expose the surrounding communities to long-term health risks.

Inaction: Law of the land

The central government is considering making retrospective changes in Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act (MMDRA), which will be put in front of the Cabinet soon.

According to section 21(5) of this Act, “A person without a lawful authority, if raises any mineral from any land, the state government has the right to retrieve from such person, the mineral so raised, or, whether such mineral has already been disposed of, and may also retrieve from such person, rent, royalty or tax, as the case maybe, for the period during which the land was occupied by such person without any legitimate authority.”

But there is lack of lucidity on whether the Act should deal with violations on environment norms, which are dealt by separate laws.

The Supreme Court had, in August 2017, ruled that contravention of the environment and pollution control laws in a lease were to be considered unlawful. This flustered miners as the penalty for this amounted to 100 per cent of their output. However, the state-run private enterprises are running lucratively.

The villagers also claim to have written to the state several times warning them about the gravity of the situation, but have not seen the Government act on it.

ECL had also promised to rehabilitate the villagers near the coal belt, but they never mentioned when that promise would materialise. Few families themselves moved to Asansol and Burdwan in the past few years after survival became close to impossible in Raniganj.

“Our records prove not a single subsidence incident has taken place after the nationalisation of coal. One can only see the occurrence of planned subsidence after the final extraction of coal. The crown of the mine is allowed to subside. But the effect of it is never felt on the surface. It’s carried out with utmost care,” said ECL Ratibati Colliery Manager adding that people often exaggerate issues.

“People presume about the illegal indentures. There is nothing like that. How can someone even dare to think that the government would ever indulge in a wrong doing? There is 100 per cent clarity in our dealings. After all, who would want to risk a government job? According to the company’s policy, breach of law is a highly punishable offence,” the manager added.

On the other than, JK Nagar Mines’ general manager said looking after the mine is too much responsibility. “The land where surface rights belong to ECL is huge and looking after it regularly is a difficult job,” he said.

This inaction let mafias take out coal from the land’s upper stratum and leave both Ratibati Shivadanga villages stand on precarious grounds.

With every passing day these places are becoming more and more dangerous. But, both ECL and West Bengal government have done nothing to rehabilitate the sufferers.

An authorised solution to the problem is needed to not only secure the rights of the local residents but also help conserve biodiversity.

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