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India – Is PM Modi endorsing violations of environmental laws in the country?

Is Modi endorsing violations of environmental laws in the country?

By unveiling a 112-feet-tall Shiva idol on Friday, constructed by flouting environmental laws and building regulations, at Isha Foundation, a spiritual organisation founded by yoga guru, Jaggi Vasudev in Coimbatore, is Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsing violations of environmental laws in our country?

Isha Foundation, situated in the foothills of Velliangirihills in the Western Ghats famous for its elephant corridor, Coimbatore, has been a controversies’ child since its inception in 1994. It has been accused of violating government laws, environmental and building construction rules and affecting the biodiversity of the region.

Now, by inviting Prime Minister to unveil an idol embroiled in controversy, on Mahasivarathri day, it looks like a well orchestrated plan by this high profile jet-setting godman to legitimise his illegal activities and silence his long time criticisers. It also reflects his gross disregard for the laws of the land and his high handedness and influence in the bureaucracy of the country.

The statue erected in Ikkarai Boluvampatti village, Coimbatore, comes under the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA), where HACA permission is mandatory for any kind of construction. Also, the land in which the construction has been carried out, is classified as wetland, where paddy, sugarcane and plantations are grown. “The construction is illegal because it is in a revenue village and Isha Foundation has not received the approval from the HACA and Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP)”, says Srinivasan Kuppuswamy who initiated a campaign on saying, “Modiji, Please don’t attend the Sadhguru Jaggi’s Function, Destroyer of tribals & elephants”.

Isha foundation built the statue in violation of Madras High Court order issued by the then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice R Madhavan. I think Modi has fallen into a trap laid by godman Jaggi Vasudev and he is endorsing illegal construction by unveiling Shiva statue. It also has a built up area of 13 lakh square feet of illegal construction in the same village

Mohanraj, Environment activist

Echoing Mohanraj’s concerns, a Coimbatore based rights activist Ponniah Chandran says, “Prime Minister’s unveiling of the statue sanctifies all violations of environmental laws. Sangh Parivars statement that he is on a personal spiritual enquiry is superficial and condemnable as he is not coming in a personal capacity as Narendra Modi, but as the Prime Minister of the country”.

The construction of Shiva statue went unchecked despite Isha Foundation being issued a ‘locking and sealing and demolition notice’ by the Deputy Director, Town and Country Planning, Coimbatore region on 24 December, 2012, directing the organisation to demolish all illegal constructions in the campus. A petition before the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), filed recently by Adv M Vetri Selvan, demanding a permanent injunction restraining the organisation from conducting the Mahashivarathri Festival and other cultural extravaganza within the buffer-zone, stated, “As of now, Isha Foundation owns buildings, lake, ornamental gardens, parking bay, playground, etc. to the extent of 4,27,700 sq. mt. and Isha Foundation never obtained permission either from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, nor did it obtain ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the forest department in accordance with law”.

The petition goes on to say, that, “All the above lands are situated in the elephant corridor. Due to the construction of buildings, and the increasing population of the visitors to the Isha Foundation everyday and due to the fact that all the vehicles coming to the Isha Foundation use the forest – connecting – road to the Thanaikandi tribal hamlets, and due to the large number of vehicles, the elephant corridor is obstructed and due to this obstruction, the confrontation between man-animal (elephant) is increasing”.

Prime Minister’s visit amidst protests raised by environmentalists, Association of Tribals and Association of farmers along with political parties like CPIM and CPI also reinforce BJP’s soft corner towards godmen and it turning a blind eye towards their illegal activities.

While environmentalists and government authorities confirm that at least two dozen institutions have come up in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Coimbatore district in the last two decades, only small and less powerful people were punished by the government so far for encroaching on traditional migratory paths of wild elephants. On loosing AICTE accreditation for Indus College of engineering in 2015, citing environmental laws, the lament of the then college Chairman V P Prabhakaran, “We are targeted to save the big fishes in the region”, points towards this double standards of the government.

A pending public interest litigation (PIL) in the Madras HC filed by the Velliangiri Hill Tribal Protection Society citing to demolish the unauthorised construction, points out that the activities of the organisation disrupts the peaceful co-existence of the native tribes (Irular) and the nature. The PIL also adds, that the organisation started constructing the statue 2 years ago, without even submitting an application of approval for the construction. Even the belated application submitted on 19th October, 2016 was only for 300 sq meters while the actual construction is being carried out in 9000 sq meters.

As part of Modi’s visit, 44 acres of land belonging to Tribals have been now taken over by Isha and heavily guarded. How can they do this when the writ petition is pending in the Madras High Court


Meanwhile, an unperturbed Isha Foundation claimed that it had got all necessary permissions. Also, in a blog post Isha Foundation stated, “The accusations laid down in the petitions filed against Isha Foundation in the Madras High Court are frivolous and a compilation of twisted allegations.”

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Art of Living Foundation must pay remaining fine for damaging Yamuna floodplains: NGT


Sri Sri Ravishankar’s organisation went back on its commitment to pay the fine for hosting a three-day festival that affected Yamuna floodplains

 An expert committee told the National Green Tribunal in August 2016 that the festival had
An expert committee told the National Green Tribunal in August 2016 that the festival had “completely destroyed” the riverbed. Credit: Arne Krueger / Flicker

The Art of Living Foundation, which is led by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar, must pay remaining Rs 4.75-crore fine for hosting a massive festival on the banks of the River Yamuna in Delhi, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said today.

Strongly criticising organisation for going ahead with the three-day “World Culture Festival” on the banks of the River Yamuna, the country’s top environment court said that the organisation has tried multiple legal cases “in order not to pay the fine” and that questions the “conduct of the foundation’.

The Art of Living paid Rs 2,500,000 last year and then went back on its commitment. An expert committee had told the NGT in August 2016 that the festival had “completely destroyed” the riverbed.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees attended the event at what was called the world’s largest stage, spreading over seven acres. It was alleged that the permission given to the festival was vague, in excess of the powers vested in the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and not in consonance with the previous orders of the NGT.

Both, the NGT-constituted committee as well as the committee formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had agreed that the event posed great danger to the floodplains.

Environmentalists had accused organisers of destroying vegetation and ruining the fragile ecosystem by damaging its bed and disrupting water flows.

However, the organisers claimed having “left the site in better condition’ that they found it. They will move the Supreme Court to challenge the NGT order.

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Meghalaya – uranium mining projects will not get NOCs

 Khasi District Council

After the Centre reiterated its move to open up uranium mining in the state, the highest council of the Khasi community says it will not grant an NOC

                    The Centre, in February 2017, reiterated that the uranium mining activities will be pursued in Meghalaya. Credit: Rikynti Marwein / Flicker
The Centre, in February 2017, reiterated that the uranium mining activities will be pursued in Meghalaya. Credit: Rikynti Marwein / Flicker

With the Central government planning to revive uranium mining in Meghalaya, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has taken the side of the student organisations and NGOs opposing Centre’s plans. According to Chief Executive Member of KHADC, P N Syiem, the council has unanimously approved the decision to not grant No Objection Certificate to uranium mining in Meghalaya.

On February 8, in a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), who is also handling the Atomic Energy portfolio, said that it has already planned to develop the mineral resources at Domiasiat, a village in West Khasi Hills, about 130 kilometres from the state capital, under the name of ‘Kylleng- Pdengsohiong-Mawthabah (KPM) Uranium Mining Project’.

Incidentally, in August, 2016, the Meghalaya government revoked its earlier decision that granted permission to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to conduct uranium exploratory activities in the state. The government had granted the UCIL 422 hectares of land in Mawthabah area of South West Khasi hills in August 2009.

However, the Centre, in February 2017, reiterated that the uranium mining activities will be pursued in the state. “Uranium mineralisation in Meghalaya has been found over a large area around Domiasiat, Wahkyn, Lostoin. The project has the potential to generate substantial nuclear fuel for the atomic power plants of the country,” Singh stated while adding that a detailed project report has been approved by the Atomic Energy Commission. Further, the minister wrote that environmental clearance for KPM project has been obtained from the then Ministry of Environment and Forest in December 2007.

“An agreement has also been signed between the UCIL and the land owners of the project site in May 2007 for acquisition of land on annual lease rent basis,” he stated in the floor of the Parliament. On the other hand, the Atomic Mines Directorate (AMD), which takes up exploration of uranium reserves, has already floated a commercial tender for exploration for drilling in Nongjri Plateau in South West Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya on December 27, 2016.

Rethink on uranium mining

Exploration for uranium in the same region was done by West Bengal-based Maheshwari Mining Limited in Nongjri since 2007. However, the KHADC was not informed about the mineral that company was looking for, according to Syiem. Although the KHADC granted a trade licence to the company, the details of exploration were missing. “We received several complaints from the local organisations and communities living in the areas. Upon perusal, we found that there were massive discrepancies in the documents presented to the council,” said Syiem. In June 2011, the company was asked to surrender the trade licence for felling large number of trees and polluting the local water by disposing drilling waste in the neighbouring water bodies.

The KHADC, which is one of the 14 councils in the six schedule areas in the country, reserves the right to grant permissions to acquire land for different kinds of activities by the government as well private organisations. According to the members of KHADC, as of now, the earlier experience of Uranium mining has forced people, including previous land owners who diverted their land for exploration, to rethink about the mining of the radioactive element.

Rich reserve of sandstone-type uranium

On the other hand, according to the AMD, India’s largest and richest sandstone-type uranium deposits are located in Domiasiat and Wahkyn areas of West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. So far, nearly 131 km of drilling by completing about 1,800 boreholes has resulted in procuring 16,000 tonnes of uranium ores, accounting 14 per cent of India’s total uranium reserve.

The KHADC’s decision is backed by two powerful student organisations—the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO)— that have been opposed the Centre’s move to develop large deposits of uranium in Meghalaya. “We had made it clear to the government that we would continue to oppose uranium mining until a common understanding of all stakeholders is reached on the issues and all the apprehensions of the people addressed,” the KSU president Daniel Khyriem said while addressing a press conference in Shillong.

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Chorus grows louder against Modi’s visit to Isha Foundation event in Coimbatore

Isha foundation has been accused of violating building construction rules, affecting the biodiversity of the region, which is an elephant corridor

Isha Foundation, founded by yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev, has been in the midst of the controversy for over five years and has even received demolition notices from the state government in the past. Photo: Hindustan Times

Isha Foundation, founded by yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev, has been in the midst of the controversy for over five years and has even received demolition notices from the state government in the past. Photo: Hindustan Times

Chennai: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Coimbatore to unveil a 112-feet-tall Shiva idol at the Isha Foundation on Friday, activists and environmental groups urged him not to participate in the event as the foundation has been accused of violating building construction rules, affecting the biodiversity of the region, which is an elephant corridor.

The foundation, however, has maintained that it has got all necessary permissions.

The unveiling of the idol coincides with Mahashivratri on Friday.

Retired Madras high court judge D. Hariparanthaman told reporters on Wednesday, “The Isha Foundation has over 13 lakh sq. feet of illegal constructions and the visit by the prime minister may interfere with the administration of justice.”

He said the opposition is not because of the religious event to be held on Mahashivratri, but due to the “violation of the building norms” and the apprehension that the Prime Minister’s visit will “legitimize the actions of the organization”.

Environmentalists claim that the construction will impact wild animals in the area.


The Isha Foundation, founded by yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev, has been in the midst of the controversy for over five years and has even received demolition notices from the state government in the past.

While a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Madras HC filed by the Velliangiri Hill Tribal Protection Society had sought to demolish the unauthorised construction, an application before the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) claimed that it is located in Velliangiri foothills which is a man-animal conflict area, as pointed out by the district forest officer, Coimbatore.

In 2013, the Town and Country Planning department had mentioned in the HC that the extent of illegal construction is 13 lakh sq. ft. While a “stop-work” notice was issued in November 2012, a “lock and seal and demolition notice” was also served in December 2012.

Similarly, notices have been served by the Town and Country Planning department to several educational institutions and other buildings since 2012 in Coimbatore—surrounded by the Western ghats—as they violated the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) norms.

While the higher education authority withdrew its approval to Indus College of Engineering at Alandurai, as it had encroached the elephant corridor, many others educational institutes continue to function despite the orders, allege environmentalists.

Isha Foundation, meanwhile, said it had got all the necessary permissions. “We have got all the necessary permissions from the authorized people. These are some vested interests who are trying to create a ruckus to disrupt a major event like this,” said a public relations executive from Isha Foundation.

A blog post by the Isha Foundation said, “The accusations laid down in the petitions filed against Isha Foundation in the Madras High Court are frivolous and a compilation of twisted allegations.”

The statement which mentioned that Isha Foundation had approvals from necessary authorities, including the Coimbatore district collector, the forest department and BSNL, added: “A no objection certificate from the district collector, Coimbatore for using wetlands for non-agricultural purposes has also been obtained. So the question of violation does not even arise.”

With tribal associations and others in Coimbatore having planned demonstrations and protests in the city on Friday, security arrangements have been beefed up ahead of Modi’s visit and traffic regulations are already in place.

Modi will arrive at the Sulur Air Base on Friday evening, then leave for the Isha centre in a chopper to land at the helipad near the foundation, said a senior police official from Coimbatore, who is in charge of security arrangements.

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Nuclear Power Is Not “Green Energy” #mustshare

Nuclear lobbyists and some scientists are under the mistaken impression that nuclear power is virtually carbon-free, and thus must be pushed to prevent runaway global warming (if you don’t believe in global warming, please forward this to your friends, family and colleagues who do so).

But this is a complete and total myth …

Former Commissioner for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Peter Bradford explains that building nuclear plants to fight global warming is like trying to fight global hunger by serving everyone caviar.

Dr. Mark Jacobson – the head of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, who has written numerous books and hundreds of scientific papers on climate and energy, and testified before Congress numerous times on those issues – notes that nuclear puts out much more pollution (including much more CO2) than windpower, and 1.5% of all the nuclear plants built have melted down.  Jacobson also points out that it takes at least 11 years to permit and build a nuclear plant, whereas it takes less than half that time to fire up a wind or solar farm. Between the application for a nuclear plant and flipping the switch, power is provided by conventional energy sources … 55-65% of which is coal.

Keith Barnham – Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Imperial College London – notes that claims that nuclear power is a ‘low carbon’ energy source fall apart under scrutiny.

Mark Diesendorf – Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW – writes:

Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered. In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation. All of the other steps – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.

Amory Lovins is perhaps America’s top expert on energy, and a dedicated environmentalist for close to 50 years.  His credentials as an energy expert and environmentalist are sterling.  Lovins is a former Oxford don, who taught at nine universities, most recently Stanford.  He has briefed 19 heads of state, provided expert testimony in eight countries, and published 31 books and several hundred papers.  Lovins’ clients have included the Pentagon,  OECD, United Nations, Resources for the Future, many national governments, and 13 US states, as well as many Fortune 500 companies, major real-estate developers, and utilities.  Lovins served in 1980-81 on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Research Advisory Board, and in 1999-2001 and 2006-2008 on Defense Science Board task forces on military energy efficiency and strategy.

Lovins says nuclear is not the answer:

Nuclear plants are so slow and costly to build that they reduce and retard  climate protection.

Here’s how. Each dollar spent on a new reactor buys about 2-10 times less carbon savings, 20-40 times slower, than spending that dollar on the cheaper, faster, safer solutions that make nuclear power unnecessary and uneconomic: efficient use of electricity, making heat and power together in factories or buildings (“cogeneration”), and renewable energy. The last two made 18% of the world’s 2009 electricity, nuclear 13%, reversing their 2000 shares–and made over 90% of the world’s additional electricity in 2008.

Those smarter choices are sweeping the global energy market. Half the world’s new generating capacity in 2008 and 2009 was renewable. In 2010, renewables except big hydro dams won $151 billion of private investment and added over 50 billion watts (70% the total capacity of all 23 Fukushima-style U.S. reactors) while nuclear got zero private investment and kept losing capacity. Supposedly unreliable windpower made 43-52% of four German states’ total 2010 electricity. Non-nuclear Denmark, 21% wind-powered, plans to get entirely off fossil fuels. Hawai’i plans 70% renewables by 2025.

In contrast, of the 66 nuclear units worldwide officially listed as “under construction” at the end of 2010, 12 had been so listed for over 20 years, 45 had no official startup date, half were late, all 66 were in centrally planned power systems–50 of those in just four (China, India, Russia, South Korea)–and zero were free-market purchases. Since 2007, nuclear growth has added less annual output than just the costliest renewable–solar power –and will probably never catch up. While inherently safe renewable competitors are walloping both nuclear and coal plants in the marketplace and keep getting dramatically cheaper, nuclear costs keep soaring, and with greater safety precautions would go even higher. Tokyo Electric Co., just recovering from $10-20 billion in 2007 earthquake costs at its other big nuclear complex, now faces an even more ruinous Fukushima bill.

Since 2005, new U.S. reactors (if any) have been 100+% subsidized–yet they couldn’t raise a cent of private capital, because they have no business case. They cost 2-3 times as much as new windpower, and by the time you could build a reactor, it couldn’t even beat solar power. Competitive renewables, cogeneration, and efficient use can displace all U.S. coal power more than 23 times over–leaving ample room to replace nuclear power’s half-as-big-as-coal contribution too–but we need to do it just once.

(Read Lovins’ technical papers on the issue here.)

Nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen noted last year:

Does the nuclear industry’s latest claim that it is the world’s salvation from increasing levels of CO2 hold up under scrutiny? No! The evidence clearly shows that building new nukes will make global warming worse.


Nuclear power lobbyists and their marketing firms want us to believe that humankind’s current CO2 atmospheric releases would have been much worse were it not for those 438 nukes now operating. How much worse? The World Nuclear Association industry trade group estimates that an additional 1.1 GT of CO2 would have been created in 2015 if natural gas plants supplied the electricity instead of those 438 nukes[17].

Do the math! 1.1 additional GT out of 36 GT emitted is only a 3% difference. This 3% value is not a typographical error. Worldwide, all those nukes made only a 3% dent in yearly CO2 production. Put another way, each of the 438 individual nuclear plants contribute less than seven thousandths of one percent to CO2 reduction[18]. That’s hardly enough to justify claims that keeping your old local nuke running is necessary to prevent the sea from rising.

Let’s fast forward to 2050. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) estimates that even if the 2015 Paris CO2 accords (COP 21) are implemented and 1,000 new nukes are constructed, global CO2 emissions will still increase to a minimum of 64 GT[19]. While this increase appears counterintuitive given the Paris agreement, it is on target because pent up energy demands from large populations in India, China, Southeast Asia, and Africa who want to achieve the standard of living in western developed countries.[20]

Can new nukes really help cut CO2 by 2050? Unfortunately, what is past is prologue. To do so, the World Nuclear Association claims 1,000 new nukes will be needed by 2050 to combat CO2 buildup and climate change[21]. The MIT estimate also assumes 1,000 nukes must be in operation by 2050. Using the nuclear trade association’s own calculations shows that these new nukes will offset only 3.9 GT of CO2 in 2050. Do the math again! 3.9 GT out of 64 GT is only 6.1% of the total CO2 released to the atmosphere in 2050, hardly enough for the salvation of the polar bears!

If those 1,000 nuclear power plants were cheap and could be built quickly, investing in nukes might still make sense. However, Lazard Financial Advisory and Asset Management[22], with no dog in the fight, has developed a rubric that estimates that the construction cost of those new nukes will be $8,200,000,000,000. Yes, that’s $8.2 TRILLION to reduce CO2 by only 6%![23]

Surely that huge amount of money can be better spent on less expensive alternatives to get more bang for the buck! Lazard also estimates that solar or wind would be 80% less expensive[24] for the equivalent amount of peak electric output.

Atmospheric CO2 releases are not going to go on vacation while waiting for those 1,000 nukes to be built. According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016[25], the mean [average] construction time for 46 nuclear plants that began operation between 2006 and 2016 was 10.4 years, not including engineering, licensing and site selection. Contrast that with a two year design and construction schedule for a typical industrial scale solar power plant.[26],[27] Atmospheric CO2 levels will increase by almost 70 PPM during the 35 years it will take to construct those 1,000 new nukes, an increase that these new nuclear plants will never eliminate – if they ever operate.


Global climate change is a now problem that requires now solutions[28]. Governments will make the CO2 problem worse by allocating precious resources for alleged atomic power solutions to reduce CO2 when the cost of such proposals is unknown and when implementation only begins in 2030. Fortunately, lower cost renewable solutions are readily available and can be implemented on the necessary time scale needed to reverse the rapidly increasing atmospheric CO2.

Building new nukes applies a 20th century technology to a 21st century problem. Moreover, building nuclear reactors in a tradeoff for CO2 reduction creates a toxic legacy of atomic waste throughout the world. Proponents of nuclear power would have us believe that humankind is smart enough to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time humankind is so dumb that we can’t figure out how to store solar electricity overnight. I disagree.

Let’s not recreate the follies of the 20th century by recycling this atomic technology into the 21st century. The evidence proves that new nukes will make global climate change worse due to huge costs and delayed implementation periods. Lift the CO2 Smoke Screen and implement the alternative solutions that are available now – faster to implement and much less expensive.

Alternet points out:

Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School … found that the states that invested heavily in nuclear power had worse track records on efficiency and developing renewables than those that did not have large nuclear programs. In other words, investing in nuclear technology crowded out developing clean energy.

BBC notes:

Building the [nuclear] power station produces a lot of CO2 ….

Greenpeace points out:

When it comes to nuclear power, the industry wants you to think of electricity generation in isolation …..  And yet the production of nuclear fuel is a hugely intensive process. Uranium must be mined, milled, converted, enriched, converted again and then manufactured into fuel. You’ll notice the [the nuclear industry] doesn’t mention the carbon footprint of all steps in the nuclear chain prior to electricity generation. Fossil fuels have to be used and that means CO2 emissions.

An International Forum on Globalization report – written by environmental luminaries Ernest Callenback, Gar Smith and Jerry Mander – have slammed nuclear power as catastrophic for the environment:

Nuclear energy is not the “clean” energy its backers proclaim. For more than 50 years, nuclear energy has been quietly polluting our air, land, water and bodies—while also contributing to Global Warming through the CO2 emissions from its construction, mining, and manufacturing operations. Every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle—mining, milling, shipping, processing, power generation, waste disposal and storage—releases greenhouse gases, radioactive particles and toxic materials that poison the air, water and land. Nuclear power plants routinely expel low-level radionuclides into the air in the course of daily operations. While exposure to high levels of radiation can kill within a matter of days or weeks, exposure to low levels on a prolonged basis can damage bones and tissue and result in genetic damage, crippling long-term injuries, disease and death.

See this excellent photographic depiction of the huge amounts of fossil fuel which goes into building and operating a nuclear power plant.

Nature reported in 2008:

You’re better off pursuing renewables like wind and solar if you want to get more bang for your buck.”


Evaluating the total carbon output of the nuclear industry involves calculating those emissions and dividing them by the electricity produced over the entire lifetime of the plant. Benjamin K. Sovacool, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore, recently analyzed more than one hundred lifecycle studies of nuclear plants around the world, his results published in August in Energy Policy. From the 19 most reliable assessments, Sovacool found that estimates of total lifecycle carbon emissions ranged from 1.4 grammes of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (gCO2e/kWh) of electricity produced up to 288 gCO2e/kWh. Sovacool believes the mean of 66 gCO2e/kWh to be a reasonable approximation.

The large variation in emissions estimated from the collection of studies arises from the different methodologies used – those on the low end, says Sovacool, tended to leave parts of the lifecycle out of their analyses, while those on the high end often made unrealistic assumptions about the amount of energy used in some parts of the lifecycle. The largest source of carbon emissions, accounting for 38 per cent of the average total, is the “frontend” of the fuel cycle, which includes mining and milling uranium ore, and the relatively energy-intensive conversion and enrichment process, which boosts the level of uranium-235 in the fuel to useable levels. Construction (12 per cent), operation (17 per cent largely because of backup generators using fossil fuels during downtime), fuel processing and waste disposal (14 per cent) and decommissioning (18 per cent) make up the total mean emissions.

According to Sovacool’s analysis, nuclear power, at 66 gCO2e/kWh emissions is well below scrubbed coal-fired plants, which emit 960 gCO2e/kWh, and natural gas-fired plants, at 443 gCO2e/kWh. However, nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar photovoltaic, at 32 gCO2e/kWh, and six times as much as onshore wind farms, at 10 gCO2e/kWh. “A number in the 60s puts it well below natural gas, oil, coal and even clean-coal technologies. On the other hand, things like energy efficiency, and some of the cheaper renewables are a factor of six better. So for every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms,” Sovacool says. Add to that the high costs and long lead times for building a nuclear plant about $3 billion for a 1,000 megawatt plant, with planning, licensing and construction times of about 10 years and nuclear power is even less appealing.


Money spent on energy efficiency, however, is equivalent to increasing baseload power, since it reduces the overall power that needs to be generated, says Sovacool. And innovative energy-storage solutions, such as compressed air storage, could provide ways for renewables to provide baseload power.

Thomas Cochran, a nuclear physicist and senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group in Washington DC … argues that the expense and risk of building nuclear plants makes them uneconomic without large government subsidies, and that similar investment in wind and solar photovoltaic power would pay off sooner.


Another question has to do with the sustainability of the uranium supply itself. According to researchers in Australia at Monash University, Melbourne, and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, good-quality uranium ore is hard to come by. The deposits of rich ores with the highest uranium content are depleting leaving only lower-quality deposits to be exploited. As ore quality degrades, more energy is required to mine and mill it, and greenhouse gas emissions rise. “It is clear that there is a strong sensitivity of … greenhouse gas emissions to ore grade, and that ore grades are likely to continue to decline gradually in the medium- to long-term,” conclude the researchers.  [And see this.]

Beyond Nuclear notes:

The energy consulting firm Ecofys produced a report detailing how we can meet nearly 100% of global energy needs with renewable sources by 2050. Approximately half of the goal is met through increased energy efficiency to first reduce energy demands, and the other half is achieved by switching to renewable energy sources for electricity production. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees and predicts close to 80% of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid‐century.


Since nuclear power plants are reliant upon the electrical grid for 100% of their safety systems’ long‐term power, and are shut down during grid failure and perturbations, it is “guaranteed” only as long as the electrical grid is reliable. When the Tsunami and earthquake hit and power was lost in the Fukushima Prefecture, nuclear energy wasn’t so “guaranteed.” Instead, it became a liability, adding to what was now a triple threat to the region and worsening an already catastrophic situation.


[The claim that] Nuclear power is “low‐carbon electricity” … is the propaganda line commonly used by the nuclear industry which conveniently leaves out every phase of the nuclear fuel chain other than electricity generation. It ignores the significant carbon emissions caused by uranium mining, milling, processing and enrichment; the transport of fuel; the construction of nuclear plants; and the still inadequate permanent management of waste. It also ignores the release ‐ by nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities ‐ of radioactive carbon dioxide, or carbon‐14, to the air, considered to be the most toxic of all radioactive isotopes over the long‐term.

In fact, studies show that extending the operating licenses of old nuclear power plants emits orders of magnitude more carbon and greenhouse gases per kilowatt hour from just the uranium fuel chain compared to building and operating new wind farms.


Nuclear might begin to address global carbon emissions if a reactor is built somewhere in the world every two weeks. But this is an economically unrealistic, in fact impossible, proposition, with the estimated construction tab beginning at $12 billion apiece and current new reactors under construction already falling years behind schedule.

According to a 2003 MIT study, “The Future of Nuclear Power,” such an unprecedented industrial ramping up would also mean opening a new Yucca Mountain‐size nuclear waste dump somewhere in the world “every three to four years,” a task still unaccomplished even once in the 70 years of the industry’s existence. Further, such a massive scale expansion of nuclear energy would fuel proliferation risks and multiply anxieties about nuclear weapons development, exemplified by the current concern over Iran. As Al Gore stated while Vice President: “For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program.”

Many experts also say that the “energy return on investment” from nuclear power is lower than many other forms of energy. In other words, non-nuclear energy sources produce more energy for a given input.

David Swanson summarizes one of the key findings of the International Forum on Globalization report:

The energy put into mining, processing, and shipping uranium, plant construction, operation, and decommissioning is roughly equal to the energy a nuclear plant can produce in its lifetime. In other words, nuclear energy does not add any net energy.

Not counted in that calculation is the energy needed to store nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

Also not counted is any mitigation of the relatively routine damage done to the environment, including human health, at each stage of the process.


Nuclear energy is not an alternative to energies that increase global warming, because nuclear increases global warming. When high-grade uranium runs out, nuclear will be worse for CO2 emissions than burning fossil fuels. And as global warming advances, nuclear becomes even less efficient as reactors must shut down to avoid overheating.

Also not counted in most discussions is the fact that nuclear reactors discharge tremendous amounts of heat directly into the environment.  After all – as any nuclear engineer will tell you – a nuclear reactor is really just a fancy way to boil water.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted in 1971:

In terms of thermal efficiency, current nuclear reactors are even worse off than the coal plants.  Against the 50 per cent loss of heat in the newest coal plants, as much as 70 per cent of the heat is lost from nuclear plants.  This means that thermal pollution can be even more severe ….

1971 was a long time ago, but some nuclear plants are older.  For example, Oyster Creek was launched in 1969, and many other reactors were built in the early 1970s.   Most American nuclear reactors are old (and they are aging very poorly).

Indeed, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service claims:

It has been estimated that every nuclear reactor daily releases thermal energy –heat– that is in excess of the heat released by the detonation of a 15 kiloton nuclear bomb blast.

It doesn’t make too much sense to dump massive amounts of heat into the environment … in the name of fighting global warming.

The bottom line – as discussed above – is that scientists pushing nuclear to combat global warming are misinformed.  (True, nuclear industry lobbyists may be largely responsible for the claim that nuclear fights climate change. Indeed, Dick Cheney – whose Halliburton company builds nuclear power plants, and which sold nuclear secrets to Iran – falsely claimed that nuclear power is carbon-free in a 2004 appearance on C-Span. But there are also sincere environmental scientists who are pushing nuclear because they have only studied a small part of the picture, and don’t understand that there are better alternatives.)

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Take action against Areva for supplying substandard parts, false quality certificates

EAS Sarma, former secretary of the Government of India, has demanded that action be initiated to blacklist the parts supplier company, Areva, and its subsidiary, Creusot Forge, for doing business in India. Citing various events and reports, Mr Sarma, in a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) alleges that the French company have falsified quality certificates and supplied substandard parts. The same company is also expected to supply equipment for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra.
“While US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has had no hesitation whatsoever to divulge these details to the public, India’s DAE seems to be secretive about this for reasons best known to it. There are serious public safety concerns, in addition to the fact that DAE has adopted a highly non-transparent non-competitive procedure for choosing the company and negotiating the price,” he writes to Dr Sekhar Basu, Secretary of the DAE.
He further adds, “Considering that Areva has had not too glorious a track record edging on false certification, I feel that DAE should revoke the agreement, if any, already entered into with Areva, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister of India signed a protocol with his French counterpart. Apparently, the DAE had not apprised the PM of the implications of signing such a protocol.”
In support of his plea, Mr Sarma submitted reports of various nuclear mishaps that took place due to Areva’s substandard supply of parts, including the Nuclear Industry in France Crisis report of 9 November 2016, in which the French nuclear regulator, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (ASN), had questioned the French nuclear manufacturing companies, namely, EDF and Areva, on the extent to which their plants have such substandard components and their adverse impact on the safety of those plants. Sensitive to the potential danger of operating such plants, France has closed down 20 nuclear plants already.
“These are serious matters on which DAE and Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) cannot afford to feign ignorance and pretend that the public here in India would never come to know about these developments. DAE, presided over by the Prime Minister (PM) himself, has the moral obligation to get at the root of this problem and inform the public about the magnitude of the problem and the corrective action taken. This assumes importance against the background of the PM signing an agreement with France earlier and an agreement now with Japan on bilateral cooperation in the area of nuclear power development,” the former Cabinet Secretary said.
In light of the disheartening response from the authorities, Mr Sarma says, “I feel surprised and distressed at the way DAE has chosen to remain totally unresponsive to my numerous cautionary letters on the subject and opted in favour of going ahead with the proposal to negotiate with Areva. This, in my view, is highly objectionable and it raises concerns of propriety, both technical and financial. An independent investigation, I am sure, will highlight the fears I have been expressing. What really distresses me most is that the Indian regulator, AERB too has chosen to remain passive, without opening its eyes and ears to the public disclosures made by both the French and the US regulators. Despite my cautioning the DAE, if any further negotiations are conducted with Areva, the government will be taking a serious risk,” he adds.
Further, ridiculing the DAEs ignorance towards the sudden involvement of China, Mr Sarma says “DAE has not cared even to acknowledge the receipt of my letter. Either DAE is ignorant of this development or it is deliberately keeping the public in the dark about the Chinese entering the picture. Is not DAE concerned about placing the fuel lifeline of the Kovvada project in the hands of China?”
Despite various efforts from Mr Sarma, his plea seems to be falling on deaf ears. There seems to be no effective action that has taken place on the part of the authorities, showing astonishing disregard for the safety of the citizens. This caused Mr Sarma to take the next step and go on to mark a copy of his letter to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) requesting that this matter be placed before the PM himself for taking an objective view consistent with the public interest.

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What the state of toilets at India’s aerospace megashow tells us

What the state of toilets at India’s aerospace megashow tells us about our aspiration to be a leading power

Image result for aerospace megashow

Misogyny shows itself up in many ways. In public places, it shows in the way women are denied even the most basic facilities like toilets.

The Indian ministry of defence has just concluded the 11th edition of the biennial aerospace show Aero India in Bengaluru. Superlatives have frequently been used by government officials over the years to describe Aero India, which indeed is India’s biggest defence and aerospace event, attracting the who’s who of the global defence industry, including presidents and CEOs.

This year over 250 foreign and roughly 270 Indian companies exhibited in Aero India, which was jointly inaugurated by ministers of defence and civil aviation. As is the trend worldwide, even in the defence industry, the number of women in the workforce has increased over the years. So at Aero India 2017, there appeared to be as many women at Air Force Station Yelahanka, which has been the permanent location of the show for the last two decades, as there were men. Even at extremely conservative estimates, there were at least 2,500-3,000 women at the show every day.

Yet, it didn’t occur to the organisers that these women would need access to clean toilets. There were just under a dozen toilets for women at the show, each afflicted with its own unique problem. Some had no water, toilet paper rolls or soaps; some had too much water on the floor, forcing the users to roll up their trousers or hitch up their sarees before entering, while some demanded a cross-country trek over unpaved ground, difficult to negotiate in heels.

One thing united them all: absolute lack of hygiene. For a show of this level, the organisers had hired local cleaning women to attend to the toilets, instead of professional housekeepers.

This makes a mockery of everything we claim and aspire for at so many levels. Let’s take each level one by one. We claim to be a leading power in Asia; our prime minister asserts that our time has come and the world must take notice; and he is exhorting global industry to come and ‘Make in India’. Yet, at the biggest showcase event, the infrastructure is so abysmal that foreign participants make sympathetic noises while putting India back in the third or the fourth world.

“Aero India is basically a national show for us unlike the Dubai or the Singapore Air Shows, which are more regional in nature,” one exhibitor told this writer, explaining why they neither expect nor get delegations from other Asian countries to Aero India. To look at the latest trends in defence and aerospace technology, customers from those countries prefer to visit Dubai or Singapore. “To attract international customers, you will really need to work on the infrastructure,” she said. After all, it stands to reason that if you cannot get something as basic as the toilets right, how can you be trusted with high technology?

But we do get a lot of technology right. Isro has just launched 104 satellites in a single flight. So what is this disdain towards providing toilets for women, if not a veiled attempt at keeping them out of public places? And if this is the state at a premier show crawling with so-called VIPs, one can only shudder to think of the state of toilets in lesser places.

At the second level, what does it say about the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)? Clearly, if usable toilets cannot be provided for women at even high profile events, the fate of the millions of these being built under SBM is not difficult to imagine. In most urban areas, the problem is not of a toilet structure, but its condition.

Finally, the government is committed to giving greater opportunities to women in the armed forces. But by not providing them civilised facilities at their places of work, isn’t the government telling them that we may have opened our doors, but our minds remain shut?

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‘Forest cities’: the radical plan to save China from air pollution

Stefano Boeri, the architect famous for his plant-covered skyscrapers, has designs to create entire new green settlements in a nation plagued by dirty air

Artist’s impression of the Liuzhou Forest City which is earmarked for a radical transformation from polluted metropolis to environmental haven.
An artist’s impression of Liuzhou’s plans for a ‘Forest City’

When Stefano Boeri imagines the future of urban China he sees green, and lots of it. Office blocks, homes and hotels decked from top to toe in a verdant blaze of shrubbery and plant life; a breath of fresh air for metropolises that are choking on a toxic diet of fumes and dust.

Last week, the Italian architect, famed for his tree-clad Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) skyscraper complex in Milan, unveiled plans for a similar project in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

The Chinese equivalent – Boeri’s first in Asia – will be composed of two neighbouring towers coated with 23 species of tree and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs. The structures will reportedly house offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum and even a green architecture school, and are currently under construction, set for completion next year.

But Boeri now has even bolder plans for China: to create entire “forest cities” in a country that has become synonymous with environmental degradation and smog.

“We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades,” Boeri told the Guardian. “We are working very seriously on designing all the different buildings. I think they will start to build at the end of this year. By 2020 we could imagine having the first forest city in China.”

Boeri described his “vertical forest” concept as the architectural equivalent of a skin graft, a targeted intervention designed to bring new life to a small corner of China’s polluted urban sprawl. His Milan-based practice claimed the buildings would suck 25 tons of carbon dioxide from Nanjing’s air each year and produce about 60 kg of oxygen every day.

“It is positive because the presence of such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air, contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen,’ the architect said. “And what is so important is that this large presence of plants is an amazing contribution in terms of absorbing the dust produced by urban traffic.”

Boeri said, though, that it would take more than a pair of tree-covered skyscrapers to solve China’s notorious pollution crisis.

Nanjing Green Towers, promoted by Nanjing Yang Zi State-owned National Investment Group, will be the first Vertical Forest built in Asia.
Nanjing Green Towers, promoted by Nanjing Yang Zi State-owned National Investment Group, will be the first Vertical Forest built in Asia. Photograph: Stefano Boeri Architetti

“Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated.”

If the Nanjing project is a skin graft, Boeri’s blueprints for “forest cities” are more like an organ transplant. The Milan-born architect said his idea was to create a series of sustainable mini-cities that could provide a green roadmap for the future of urban China.

The first such settlement will be located in Luizhou, a mid-sized Chinese city of about 1.5 million residents in the mountainous southern province of Guangxi. More improbably, a second project is being conceived around Shijiazhuang, an industrial hub in northern China that is consistently among the country’s 10 most polluted cities.

Artist’s impression of the Liuzhou Forest City.
Artist’s impression of the Liuzhou Forest City. Photograph: Stefano Boeri Architetti

Compared with the vertical forests, these blueprints represent “something more serious in terms of a contribution to changing the environmental urban conditions in China,” Boeri said.

Boeri, 60, first came to China in 1979. Five years ago he opened an office in Shanghai, where he leads a research program at the city’s Tongji University.

The architect said believed Chinese officials were finally understanding that they needed to embrace a new, more sustainable model of urban planning that involved not “huge megalopolises” but settlements of 100,000 people or fewer that were entirely constructed of “green architecture”.

“What they have done until now is simply to continue to add new peripheral environments to their cities,” he said. “They have created these nightmares – immense metropolitan environments. They have to imagine a new model of city that is not about extending and expanding but a system of small, green cities.”

Boeri described the idea behind his shrub-shrouded structures as simple, not spectacular: “What is spectacular is the nature, the idea of having a building that changes colour with each season. The plants and trees are growing and they are completely changing.”

“We think – and we hope – that this idea of vertical forests can be replicated everywhere. I absolutely have no problem if there are people who are copying or replicating. I hope that what we have done can be useful for other kinds of experiments.”

Guardian Cities

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Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity

In much of the Andes, soil erosion is thought to be one of the most limiting factors in crop production. Soil is vulnerable to erosion where it is exposed to moving water or wind and where conditions of topography or human use decrease the cohesion of the soil.  ©IFAD/ Juan I. Cortés

In much of the Andes, soil erosion is thought to be one of the most limiting factors in crop production. Soil is vulnerable to erosion where it is exposed to moving water or wind and where conditions of topography or human use decrease the cohesion of the soil. ©IFAD/ Juan I. Cortés

ROME, Feb 9 2017 (IPS) – They are more than 370 million self-identified peoples in some 70 countries around the world. In Latin America alone there are over 400 groups, each with a distinct language and culture, though the biggest concentration is in Asia and the Pacific– with an estimated 70 per cent. And their traditional lands guard over 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity.

They are the indigenous peoples.

They have rich and ancient cultures and view their social, economic, environmental and spiritual systems as interdependent. And they make valuable contributions to the world’s heritage thanks to their traditional knowledge and their understanding of ecosystem management.

“But they are also among the world’s most vulnerable, marginalized and disadvantaged groups. And they have in-depth, varied and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world, “says the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“Unfortunately, indigenous peoples too often pay a price for being different and far too frequently face discrimination,” the Fund, which hosts on Feb 10 and 13 on Rome the Global Meeting of the Indigenous People Forum in the Italian capital.

During this biennial meeting, the United Nations specialised agency will bring together representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations from across the world, as well as leaders of partner bodies to engage in a direct dialogue and improve participation of indigenous peoples in the Fund’s country programmes.

Credit: IFAD

Credit: IFAD

Over the centuries, the Indigenous peoples “have been dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and, as a consequence, have often lost control over their own way of life. Worldwide, they account for 5 per cent of the population, but represent 15 per cent of those living in poverty.”

One of the most effective ways to enable indigenous peoples to overcome poverty, it adds, is to support their efforts to shape and direct their own destinies, and to ensure that they are the co-creators and co-managers of development initiatives.

Rights of Indigenous People

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly on Sep. 13, 2007, establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.

Key facts

• There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous people in the world, living in at least 70 countries
• Most of the worlds’ indigenous peoples live in Asia
• Indigenous peoples form about 5,000 distinct groups and occupy about 20 per cent of the earth’s territory
• Although indigenous peoples make up less than 6 per cent of the global population, they speak more than 4,000 of the world’s 7,000 languages
• One of the root causes of the poverty and marginalization of indigenous peoples is loss of control over their traditional lands, territories and natural resources
• Indigenous peoples have a concept of poverty and development that reflects their own values, needs and priorities; they do not see poverty solely as the lack of income
• A growing number of indigenous peoples live in urban areas, as a result of the degradation of land, dispossession, forced evictions and lack of employment opportunities

Source: IFAD

The Declaration addresses individual and collective rights; cultural rights and identity; and rights to education, health, employment and language. And it outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.

It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed on Aug. 9 every year.

Announcing the Forum, IFAD noted that it has more than 30 years of experience working with indigenous peoples. In fact, since 2003, an average of about 22 per cent of the Fund’s annual lending has supported initiatives for indigenous peoples, mainly in Asia and Latin America.

Since 2007, it has administered the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF). Through small grants of up to 50,000 dollars, it supports the aspirations of indigenous peoples by funding micro-projects that strengthen their culture, identity, knowledge, natural resources, and intellectual-property and human rights.

To help translate policy commitments into action, it has established an Indigenous Peoples’ Forum that promotes a process of dialogue and consultation among indigenous peoples’ organisations, IFAD staff and member states.

The Fund empowers communities to participate fully in determining strategies for their development and to pursue their own goals and visions by strengthening grass-roots organisations and local governance.

Land is not only crucial to the survival of indigenous peoples, as it is for most poor rural people – it is central to their identities, the Fund reports. “They have a deep spiritual relationship to their ancestral territories. Moreover, when they have secure access to land, they also have a firm base from which to improve their livelihoods.”

According to this international Fund, indigenous peoples and their knowledge systems have a special role to play in the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.

The first global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD was held in Rome on 11-12 February 2013. ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano

The first global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD was held in Rome on 11-12 February 2013. ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano

Indigenous Women’s Untapped Potential

The also named “bank of the poorest” as it provides grants and low-interest credits to the poorest rural communities, recognises indigenous women’s untapped potential as stewards of natural resources and biodiversity, as guardians of cultural diversity, and as peace brokers in conflict mitigation.

Nonetheless, it says, indigenous women are often the most disadvantaged members of their communities because of their limited access to education, assets and credit, and their exclusion from decision-making processes.

This ‘bank of the poorest’ is a specialised agency of the United Nations, which was established as an international financial institution in 1977, being one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference, which was organised in response to the food crises of the early 1970s that primarily affected the Sahelian countries of Africa.

That world conference resolved that “an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries.”

One of the most important insights emerging from the Conference was that the causes of food insecurity and famine were not so much failures in food production but structural problems relating to poverty, and to the fact that the majority of the developing world’s poor populations were concentrated in rural areas.

Since its creation, IFAD invested 18.4 billion dollars to help 464 million rural poor people.

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No Wells or Toilets, Adivasi Women in Bundelkhand Await Basic Needs #WTFnews


Lalitpur: The gathering looked joyous and colourful, but amidst the celebrations of the One Billion Rising event in one district of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, sat hundreds of angry adivasi women.

While the region goes to polls in barely 10 days, billboards and flags deck Bundelkhand’s Lalitpur town in the colours and promises of various parties, the Saharia adivasi villages, said these women, still struggled for basics of survival — food, water, land — and are afraid their votes will be coerced.

Valentine’s Day in Panari village of Bundelkhand’s Lalitpur district was marked by the local chapter of One Billion Rising, the global movement to end violence against women, awarding adivasi women who had worked in their villages against violence against women, alcoholism, purdah, for the rights of widows.

Saharia women of all ages, from villages over 15 km away, gathered in the grounds of the Pahalvan Gurudeen Mahila Mahavidyalay, and were handed out shiny plaques for their leadership in their communities. However, as the afternoon drew to a close, despite the help given by the numerous NGOs with representatives clustered on the stage handing out awards, the women had to go back to homes where, they say, there is no water, no work, no roads and very little fertile land.


Saharia women of all ages, from villages over 15 km away, gathered in the grounds of the Pahalvan Gurudeen Mahila Mahavidyalay.

“We want someone who can look after the poor,” said Sonam from Bamhori Kalan village, 12 km from Lalitpur town, clutching her maroon and gold plaque. “Someone who will give us water, land and fields to work in.”

“But we don’t want to vote because of dabaaw (pressure),” she added as the rest of the women nod. There is worry that they’ll have to vote for whoever bribes their husbands most successfully. Sheila from Budwad Gaon explains: “Where my husband goes I will go, jahan deep wahan jyoti.” She, like the rest, is concerned that whoever gets the most alcohol to her husband might win those votes.

Who can look after the poor, however, the women give no hint. In the middle of the award ceremony, they all stood up to pledge to vote, and to get others to vote, but are keeping their cards close to their chest on who they prefer. One of the few men in the gathering, Sitaram, a fellow villager from Budwad, who now works with the NGO Sai Jyoti to make adivasi villages aware of their rights, piped up saying most of them will vote NOTA. The woman, however, remained quiet on the matter.

“Only the Brahmins, the Thakurs and the Lodhis (a landowning caste) get ration and food from anganwadis for pregnant women,” Sonam said. “We have holes dug up for toilets but no actual latrines, paths have been dug up but no roads.”


The stories seem to be of much futile digging, for absent toilets, roads, for wells and ponds under MGNREGA so badly designed they hold no water. There is no water to be had near their homes. Whichever the village, saharia women have to walk about 2 km every day to fetch water, on paths cannot cross that of the dominant castes.

“Our pradhan is a Lodhi. We asked him for work under MGNREGA, but he said there are no funds, work can only happen after elections,” said Sandhya from Naya Gaon, roughly 16 km away from Lalitpur town. Many have repeatedly turned to the central jobs scheme for sustenance. However, Sheila who did 10 days of labour four years ago is yet to receive payment.

Lachchi from Kapasi gaon worked for one and half months some two years ago and has not got the money. The pradhan told her, she said, that the money had been paid to her account, but the bank denied receiving any.

In a country being relentlessly pushed to embracing digital and cashless transactions, saharia women are extremely unhappy with the way their local banks work. Since most village women are illiterate, they told News18, banks don’t entertain most saharia villagers without self-styled agent, whether to withdraw the NREGA payment or the state pension. However, these agents, take bulk of the money and leave a few hundred with them.

With no available work, very little tillable land and thekedars [contractors] who treat them like bonded labour, many villagers have fanned out to Delhi, Agra, Indore, Bhopal for jobs. In Lalitpur, meanwhile, the refrain for adivasis is jal, jameen, kheti, even though they’re tight-lipped on their best bet.

Courtesy- News 18

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