Friday, 16 November 2012

'No Haryana role in Delhi smog'

'No Haryana role in Delhi smog'

GURGAON: The Delhi-Haryana rivalry is never more clearly on show than when the issue being addressed has anything to do with pollution. Not long ago, water pollution in the Yamuna river was the bone of contention, with the two states blaming each other for having caused it. And now, after the Delhi chief minister, Shiela Dikshit, held the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - and their farm fires - responsible for the capital's daily thickening smog cover, the blame-game has begun anew. 

Officials of the 
Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) have said that Delhi is blaming other states for a mess that is its own creation. "They can't blame other states for it. Delhi's pollution levels are high because municipal solid waste is burned openly there. Besides, air pollution caused by the huge number of cars and other vehicles in the capital is on the rise. That's why, this season, the smog cover is so thick there," said Balraj Ahlawat, district pollution officer, HSPCB, Gurgaon. 

Ahlawat said that an official report - making the same points and blaming the smog blanket on, among other things, high humidity levels - has also been prepared by the pollution department. "We have a meeting on Saturday with the 
Central Pollution Control Board officials in Delhi, and this report will be submitted there," he said. Officials from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are also expected to be present at Saturday's meeting. 

The 'farm fires' that the 
Delhi government has referred to, were indeed prevalent in Haryana's rural parts, and still are a major cause for concern. Around Diwali time, farmers here carry out mass burnings of their paddy straw, causing heavy smoke emanating harmful pollutants. Even though the practice was banned in 2003, the pollution board still finds dousing these farm fires something of a challenge. 

"The pollution board is running awareness campaigns in 119 blocks across the state, where farmers are told about the harmful effect burning stalks has on the environment," said an HSPCB spokesperson. To encourage better popular participation in this drive against farm fires, the board has also announced cash prizes for the agricultural blocks that stay off this ritual this year. "Prizes of up to Rs 50,000 are being offered to the blocks where the mass burning of paddy straw is not taking place," the spokesperson added

Delhi smog lifts somewhat, but pollution stays

Delhi smog lifts somewhat, but pollution stays

NEW DELHI: A day after Diwali, the smog situation in Delhi saw a slight improvement with bright sunny on Wednesday as the level of dust particles in the air came down and the visibility turned near normal. 

According to India 
Meteorological Department (IMD), the visibility level Wednesday morning was 1,000 metres. 

"Visibility was normal at 1,000 metres and there was a slight smog cover which enveloped the city Tuesday and early Wednesday morning as fire crackers were burst for Diwali, but the air cleared later as the sun went up," an 
IMD official said. 

"It was a near clear morning a day after Diwali, with the level of dust particles in the air going down and the visibility level improved, which had dipped Tuesday evening due to pollution caused by bursting of fire crackers," the official said. 

Delhi was in the grip of smog from Oct 27 to Nov 8 due to drastic increase in fine particulate matter suspended over the city skies. 

"With the pollutants dispersing two days before Diwali, the smog situation in Delhi has seen an improvement. But that doesn't mean air pollution levels are low in 
the national capital," Anumita Roy Choudhary, an environmental scientist at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), told IANS. 

"Smog or not, crackers with dangerous toxic levels will add to the air pollution and will prove to be dangerous," Choudhary said. 

She also said people in the national capital celebrated Diwali with a bang and many burst crackers only after 10 p.m. and this level of smoke is dangerous in Delhi's winter. 

"While the Supreme Court had in 2005 put a ban on the use of firecrackers after 10 p.m. on Diwali night, many people burst crackers only after 10 p.m. With the nip in the air increasing in the night, the inverse condition gets worse from the smoke from cracker-bursting," Choudhary said. 

However, there has been a dip in the sale of firecrackers this year, as awareness about pollution and wastage of money has increased. 

"Two extreme pollution episodes back-to-back, would have had a worst impact on Delhiites. Though we don't know the exact air pollution levels post Diwali, efforts were made to minimise use of firecrackers that give rise to huge smoke. Exact data on pollution levels in the capital will be expected later in the day," said a senior environment department official said. 

"This year, we had strict norms to check crackers sale. Only 804 retail 
cracker outlets were allowed in Delhi and even the noise levels of crackers were strictly monitored," the official added. 

Smoke from field fires can travel up to 1,000km

Smoke from field fires can travel up to 1,000km

NEW DELHI: Plumes of smoke and pollutants rising from the burning fields of north India can spread through the air to places as much as 1,000km away, cause persistent fog over the region and could even be playing a part in depressing rice yields, various scientific studies on the phenomenon have found. 

The fires that raged through Punjab since the last week of October — deliberately caused by farmers to clear paddy stubbles and ready the fields for the rabi crop — were seen as a major cause of the 11-day spell of dense smog in the capital and surrounding areas. Biomass-burning is rampant, practiced in around 90% of Punjab's paddy fields, and has continued unabated for decades despite its obvious role in emitting greenhouse and a toxic mix of gases, and destroying soil nutrients. 

The practice has been studied by atmospheric and earth scientists for more than a decade and many of these have thrown up more grim facts. A 2009 study by KVS Badarinath of Indian Remote Sensing Centre and others reported that aerosols and trace gases from crop-burning in north India had been found over Hyderabad and Arabian Sea. 

"Particles from these fires can travel up to 1,000km," said 
Prof SN Tripathi of IIT Kanpur's chemical engineering department. "While smoke plumes usually clear out in a week's time, and particles rise higher in the atmosphere and can 'burn' clouds." 

Fires from 
biomass burning are also a major cause of winter fog in north India as suspended pollutants attract moisture. "We have found a direct link between fires and winter fog in north India," said Dr MM Sarin, senior professor of geosciences at Ahmedabad's Physical Research Laboratory. 

Sarin's team also found that biomass emissions contain a preponderance of organic carbon, a class of sticky particulates whose properties are different from soot, or black carbon. The proportion of black carbon — which absorb heat and light, and were linked to glacier melting — was earlier thought to be higher in these emissions. 

"Our studies also found another class of possible carcinogenic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the biomass emissions," Sarin said. 

In another paper published last year, Tripathi's team showed that once fog forms over north India, it gives rise to more particles — called secondary organic aerosols — which become seeds for more fog. "This becomes a vicious cycle and explains why winter fog persists for so long," he said. 

Given the scale of burning across north India — an estimated 17 million tonnes of paddy stubble is set afire in Punjab alone — one study has indirectly linked the practice to slowing growth rate of rice yields. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Maximilian Auffhammer of UC-Berkeley and others used statistical models to show that a joint reduction in brown haze (partly caused by biomass burning) and greenhouse gases would result in a rise in rice harvests. 

The results imply that adverse climate changes due to the winter brown haze and the rise in greenhouse gases have contributed to a slowdown in growth rate of rice yields in the past two decades.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Indian Navy inducts second guided missile frigate

Indian Navy inducts second guided missile frigate

 INS Tarkash, the second of the three stealth frigates constructed at Yantar Shipyard, Kaliningrad, Russia, was commissioned and inducted into the Navy by Vice-Admiral Shekhar Kumar Sinha, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, at Kaliningrad on Friday.

Indian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Ajai Malhotra, senior government officials of Russia, senior officials of the Indian and Russian Navies and industry representatives also attended the commissioning ceremony, according to reports received here at the Ministry of Defence.

The warship is the second of three new guided missile frigates India had ordered from Russia under a $1.6 billion contract signed in July, 2006.

The first ship of the class, INS Teg, was commissioned into the Navy in April this year. 

The final ship, the Trikand, is presently undergoing dock trials, and after it completes sea trials in the Baltic Sea, will join the Indian Navy in the summer of 2013, Ria Novosti said.

The new missile frigates are designed to accomplish a wide range of maritime missions, primarily hunting down and destroying large surface ships and submarines.

Each warship is equipped with 8 vertical launched BRAHMOS surface-to-surface missile systems as the prime strike weapon. The cruise missile is capable of engaging targets at extended ranges at supersonic speed.

Other weapons on the ship include a Shtil surface-to-air missile system, a 100 mm medium range gun, two Kashtan air-defense gun/missile systems, two 533-mm torpedo launchers and anti-submarine warfare helicopter. 

On Oct 7, INS Teg had successfully test fired the BRAHMOS missile system off the coast of Goa. The missile hit a decommissioned target ship at a distance of 290 kms.

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Hazare supports farmers' protests in Maharashtra

Hazare supports farmers' protests in Maharashtra

Extending his support to the "justful" cause of sugarcane growers in Maharashtra, social activist Anna Hazare today condemned the firing incident in Sangli district and accused the state government of turning this year's Diwali "black" for protesting farmers. 

Speaking to PTI at his native Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare said the stand taken by MP and 'Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna' leader Raju Shetty was "justful" but said the farmers should stay away from violence or it will harm their movement. "By firing on farmers, the government tried to supress their agitation. This will always be remembered as a 'Black Diwali'," he said. 

The Gandhian also flayed NCP President Sharad Pawar's remarks against Shetty and held him responsible for the 
present agrarian crisis. 

A farmer was killed in police firing in Sangli on Monday after a group of peasants tried to lock a police team inside a hotel at Nandre village after learning that Shetty was detained in Pune district. 

Shetty was spearheading the agitation of farmers against refusal of cooperative sugar factories in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts of western Maharashtra to give Rs 3,000 per ton as first advance on sugarcane purchase this season. Factories have agreed to pay Rs 2,300 per ton. 

His detention sparked largescale violence with protesting farmers torching two state transport buses and a police jeep in Pune district. Several buses were also damaged in the protests. 

Farmers had staged road blockades at various places in western Maharashtra as per the appeal made by the farmers' leader.

Aung San Suu Kyi says she has no expectations from her India visit

Aung San Suu Kyi says she has no expectations from her India visit

Nobel laureate and Myanmar's pro-democracy leaderAung San Suu Kyion Tuesday said she had no expectations from her visit to India, which comes nearly 40 years after her last one.

"I don't have any expectations from the visit (to India). I am here because I wanted to come to re-forge my ties with the country," Suu Kyi told Headlines Today replying to a question about her expectations from India.

The Myanmar leader, who spent part of her student life in India, had arrived in the national capital on Tuesday on a six-day visit.

"Democracy doesn't progress on its own, we have to make it progress... I don't feel disappointed with India (for having engaged with Junta). We cannot expect others to do things for us.  We have to do things ourselves," she said.

On the second day of her visit, Suu Kyi visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Raj Ghat where she said people keep asking her about her expectations. "It is an attempt to strengthen ties between the two countries," she emphasised.

"There are things in India that have changed and some that have not changed. I am glad that things like this have not changed since years. If I have expectations from the Indian government, I will not tell it to the media," she said.

Suu Kyi was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence on Wednesday and discuss political developments in her homeland.

During her Delhi stay, she was also likely to meet Vice President Hamid Ansari, visit Parliament and meet Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, followed by a visit to Lady Shri Ram College from where she had graduated with a degree in politics.

Archduke Joseph diamond fetches record $21.5 million at auction

GENEVA: A huge, internally flawless diamondfrom India's fabled Golconda mines was sold atauction in Geneva on Tuesday night for a record 20.355 million Swiss francs ($21.48 million),Christie's said.

The rare, colourless stone weighing 76.02 carats, and roughly the size of a large strawberry, once belonged to Archduke Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962), a prince of the Hungarian line of the Habsburgs.

Its pre-sale estimate was 15-to-25 million Swiss francs and it fetched more than double the price paid for it at auction almost two decades ago.

"It is a world record for a 
Golconda diamondand a world record price per carat for a colourless diamond," Francois Curiel, director of the international jewellery department at Christie's, told reporters.

The previous record was held by the "Beau Sancy", a pear-shaped diamond of 34.98 carats, sold by rival Sotheby's for 9 million Swiss francs last May. "The market is not on the best form at the moment. The sale tonight was almost flabbergasting," Curiel said.

He added that the buyer, who bid by telephone, wished to remain anonymous, but said the last bidder to drop out of the sale was Fred Mouawad, an international dealer with offices in Dubai,
the Middle East and Geneva.

The seller was Black, Starr & Frost, an American jeweller founded in 1810 and based in California.

"My understanding is that this stone is going to a museum and it will probably be the centrepiece," Black, Starr & Frost's chairman Alfredo Molina told Reuters in the Geneva saleroom.

Diamonds and gemstones are a safe refuge for investors in difficult economic times, he said. "There is a crisis and people don't trust governments and banks. Paper money is a depreciating asset," he added.

The diamond was the star lot at Christie's semi-annual jewellery sale in Geneva, which fetched 76.6 million francs, with 290 of 348 lots sold.

Heated bidding

Nineteen lots went for more than $1 million each, the auction house said in a statement. They included a brooch with a Ceylon sapphire weighing 60.44 carats, surrounded by diamonds, that went for 1.7 million francs, more than three times its estimate.

The bidding for the 
Archduke Joseph diamond opened at 8 million Swiss francs but the price swiftly rose amid heated telephone bidding.

Historical diamonds originating in the Golconda mines, virtually exhausted by the 18th century, include the Koh-i-Noor, now in the British crown jewels, and the blue Hope Diamond, part of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

"The Archduke Joseph Diamond is the finest and largest perfect Golconda diamond ever to appear at auction. It is comparable in its noble lineage and superb quality to the legendary Koh-i-Noor," Rahul Kadakia, head of Christie's jewellery for the Americas and Switzerland, said in a statement.

In 1933, records show the Archduke deposited the stone in the vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank.

"Three years later it was sold to a European banker, and kept in France, locked away in a safe deposit box, where fortunately it remained undiscovered during World War Two," the auction house said.

Decades later it surfaced at auction in 1961 and again at Christie's in November 1993, netting 9.7 million Swiss francs, equivalent to $6.5 million at the time, the auction house said.

The stone was subsequently "slightly recut". Christie's is privately held by French billionaire Francois Pinault.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

India’s Sivakasi Worried by Chinese Crackers

India’s Sivakasi Worried by Chinese Crackers

Sivakasi, India’s largest producer of crackers, is affected by the illegal import of Chinese crackers.

India gears up for the grand Diwali but the biggest crackers producing town “Sivakasi” in Tamil Nadu is facing a big problem. Sivakasi contributes to 90 percent of the total production of crackers in India. It exports about 4-5 percent of the total production. The problem they are facing now is nothing but the Chinese step on Crackers.
During the olden days Indians learnt the art of making crackers from Chinese. Some Indian companies such as Standard fireworks have started setting their units in China. This is mainly to learn Chinese new tricks in making crackers.
At present the biggest problem is the illegal import of crackers from China. When asked about this issue Mr. AP Selavarajan, partner of Kalishwari fireworks of Cock brand replied that ”According to the National Security Act of India the import of explosives has been banned. Moreover the chemicals used by Chinese are not permitted in India but it is coming to India in an illegal way”.
Chinese crackers are not found in Sivakasi and Southern states but it is widely seen in many parts of Delhi, Kolkata and Uttar Pradesh. The crackers are smuggled through the Bangladesh and Nepal borders. The overall Industry size of Sivakasi is approximately estimated as 900 crores. But when it goes to distributors and when it finally reaches the consumers the market value of crackers rises by several folds and finally hits a huge 3000 crores approximately. Let us see what the government is going to do to stop this illegal import.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

China cancels Kalam’s trip to hide stealth fighter?

China cancels Kalam’s trip to hide stealth fighter?

Hours before former President APJ Abdul Kalam was to visit China's top aviation body, he was told of a change in plans. He would visit the China Academy of Space Technology instead. The last minute change has sparked off speculation whether the cancellation was linked to China's wariness over its new stealth fighter, the J-31, launched just ahead of Kalam's visit. 

Kalam, an acclaimed aviation engineer, went on his maiden visit to China on November 1 on the invite of Beijing Forum, an intellectual body sponsored by the Chinese government. The same day, official media flashed pictures of the J-31 on its test flight.

Chinese officials state that the new stealth fighter was an improvised and lighter version of the J-20, launched about two years ago, making China the second country after the US to acquire the stealth bomber.

Kalam was in China on the invitation of Beijing Forum, an intellectual body sponsored by China. He was scheduled to visit the Aviation Industry Corporation of China on November 2, where he was to be given a detailed presentation. Instead, he was taken to the space academy, the premier body in charge of China's burgeoning space programme. 

While Chinese officials were tightlipped , analysts wondered whether AVIC wanted to avoid exposure of the J-31 to India's top aviation specialist.

Kalam was closely connected with DRDO and ISRO. Not someone to complain, Kalam made good of his visit to CAST, where he was given a presentation about China's manned spaceflights, including the one this year, sending its first woman astronaut to the space station.