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Delhi To Evaluate India’s Coastal Area Projects For Tsunami Impact

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India has become the first country in the world to incorporate tsunami proofing for environmental clearances of major projects, after a titanic tsunami devastated key projects in Japan this month. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday asked the Expert Appraisal Committees, mandated to give environment clearances to projects, to include tsunami related risks in the terms of reference for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for four sectors — nuclear power, infrastructure, thermal power and industry. The EIAs are supposed to be scientific studies on environmental viability of the projects, on whose basis the EAC takes the final call. While earthquake impact is considered in the EIAs, tsunamis are not.

Delhi To Evaluate India's Coastal Area Projects For Tsunami ImpactConsidering the large number of projects being proposed on India’s 5,400 km long coastline such as refineries, oil storage depots, power plants, the ministry wants tsunami proofing to be a part of the Detailed Project Reports (DPR). And, therefore, it has been included in the EIAs. To find out whether the existing projects in the coastal areas can withstand the impact of a tsunami of an intensity similar to the one that hit Japan last week and if not, what additional safeguards are required, the ministry has constituted an expert group under former bureaucrat A M Muthunayagam. The group will submit its report to the ministry in three months.

In addition to it, the group will examine a suggestion made by Rajya Sabha member and agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan on whether to declare areas around nuclear power plants in coastal areas as Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas. If this is done, it would mean there would be tough restrictions on any sort of development around nuclear plants and developing bio-shields of mangroves and non mangroves species will become a must. “There is a concern over safety of nuclear plants located in Kalpakkam and Kudangulam in Tamil Nadu makes me feel that in addition to other steps we need to promote bio-sheilds,” Swaminathan, said in a letter to Ramesh.

A study on impact of the 2004 tsunami on Indian coasts by V Senthil, director National Coastal Zone Management Authority had shown that the damage to wildlife and habitation in coastal areas having good mangroves cultivation was less than in mangrove deficient areas. “My studied showed that the mangroves protected Gulf of Manner, Nagapattnam and parts of Andaman and Nicobar islands from the 2004 Tsunami,” he said. Swaminathan said the mangroves acted as a “speed-breakers” in 2004, reducing the damage caused. Ramesh also said that Rs 1,200 crore has been sanctioned for conducting a hazard line mapping of coastal areas for seawater impact caused by a cyclone or a tsunami or climate change. “This is being done by the Survey of India and it will be completed in 24 months time,” he said.

-HT

 

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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