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NGT turns down Delhi government plea on odd-even exemptions

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New Delhi, Nov 14: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday turned down the Delhi government’s plea to exempt women drivers and two-wheelers from the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme, saying there was “no logic” to the proposal.

The top green tribunal also asked the Delhi government to choose a spot in the city by 4 p.m. on Tuesday and sprinkle water from helicopter on the area to know the efficacy of the step in reducing air pollution.

Rapping the Delhi government for its plea, the tribunal asked why should exemption be given to two-wheelers when they are a major cause of pollution.

“On what basis are you asking exemption for two-wheelers,” NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

On Delhi government counsel Tarunvir Singh Khehar raising the issue of women’s security, the tribunal said: “Why don’t you run Women’s Special buses?”

The tribunal also rapped the Delhi government over “delay” in the procurement of 4,000 additional buses and noted that sprinkling of water on pollution hotspots was not being done properly.

“Why don’t you act upon those who are responsible for pollution. How many people have you penalised or challaned so far,” Justice Kumar asked.

Following the tribunal’s order, the Delhi government withdrew its petition.

The tribunal said the Delhi government could move a fresh petition before it on the traffic rationing scheme.

It said Delhi government could use helicopters, if necessary, to sprinkle water at a pollution hotspot in the city to know its efficacy.

“Choose one place in Delhi by 4 p.m. and sprinkle water and thereafter calculate the particle pollution to know how much difference does it make,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal also allowed the National Highways Authority of India to go ahead with construction of the Delhi-Meerut Highway at the eastern periphery of the city but said there should be no dust pollution.

The Delhi government had on Saturday decided to halt the odd-even traffic restriction scheme, which was scheduled to be implemented from November 13 to 17. It moved the NGT on Monday with a review petition seeking exemptions for two-wheelers and women.

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Fire in Lok Nayak Bhawan

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Lok Nayak Bhawan

New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) A fire broke out in Lok Nayak Bhawan, where many government offices are located, on Saturday. No one was injured, a fire officer said.

The Delhi Fire Services headquarters received information around 4.30 p.m and six fire tenders were dispatched, the officer said.

“The fire broke out in the record room on the sixth floor and was doused by 5.50 p.m. No one was injured,” he added.

The building, which is the headquarters of the Enforcement Directorate, also has some offices of the CBI, Income Tax and the National Disaster Response Force.

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Kerala flood toll 357, 50,000 rescued, red alert continues in 11 districts

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Kerala Flood

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 18 (IANS) The death toll due to rains and floods in Kerala has gone up to 357 this monsoon season, as 22 more deaths were reported on Saturday even as around 50,000 people were rescued in different parts of the state, and red alert continued in 11 districts following prediction of more rains.

The India Meteorological Department forecast on Saturday afternoon that widespread rains, with heavy rains at isolated places, is likely to continue over Kerala following low pressure area very likely to develop over northwest Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood during the next 24 hours.

While around 50,000 people were rescued in districts like Ernakulam, Chengannur, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur, there are still many more waiting to be rescued.

Barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasargode, the remaining 11 districts of Kerala continued to be on red alert and can expect more rains.

The worst affected places include Aluva, Chalakudy, Chengannur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, where massive rescue operations were on as scores of persons were rescued.

Media houses continued to be flooded with requests from friends and relatives of those stranded in affected areas.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a review meeting in Kochi that the death toll since May 29 had climbed to 357. Over 3.53 lakh affected persons had been lodged in over 2,000 relief camps, he said.

Modi sanctioned Rs 500 crore to the flood-battered state, apart from Rs 100 crore announced earlier by the Centre on August 12, before returning to Delhi after an aerial survey of the affected areas.

The 22 deaths reported during the day were in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.

Vijayan told the media here the situation is “very serious and grave”.

“The death toll would have been higher, but for the work we did. Things are under control,” said Vijayan, whose government was flayed by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala for failing to take up rescue and relief work effectively.

Food Minister P. Thilothaman, camping at Chengannur, told the media: “The need of the hour is to provide food packets and drinking water to the people. About 15 small boats of the Navy are expected to join rescue and relief work. But, after dusk, no rescues are possible. Helicopters are also needed for faster evacuation.”

Meanwhile, anger mounted across Kerala as coordination of rescue work went haywire due to the magnitude of the calamity.

flood-hit Kerala

Kerala: An aerial view of the flood-hit areas of Kerala on Aug 18, 2018.

“There are several people who are waiting to be rescued in areas like Pandanad (near Chengannur) and I saw two bodies floating in the water. If there is anymore delay in, things will taken a turn for the worse. We are drinking rain water to keep us going…,” said a resident of Pandanad.

On late Saturday evening, a 150-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team started rescue operations in and around affected areas of Chengannur.

Congress legislator V.D. Sateeshan, who was spearheading the rescue operations in Paravur in Ernakulam district, said that he stood before a rescue boat team with folded hands and they obliged and rescued several people.

“In the camp at my place, there are 7,000 people and despite passionate pleas this camp has not received any government help at all. Several people have to take medicines for lifestyle diseases, but no medical kits have come. I have spoken to the Chief Minister down to all… All I got is assurances,” said Sateeshan.

National award winning actor Salimkumar, after remaining holed up in his house along with 45 others for three days, was finally rescued by a fishing boat on Saturday evening.

“I was receiving daily calls from NDRF officials even from Delhi that rescue will happen very soon, but help came after three days,” said Salimkumar.

Flaying the state for “failing in the endeavour”, Leader of Opposition Chennithala said: “I have been flooded with calls from the affected persons. Even now, thousands of people are stranded. The Chief Minister dismissed with contempt when I said this week that rescue and relief should be handed over to the Army. I do not want to blame anyone but it has been proved beyond doubt that the state government has failed.”

Alappuzha Superintendent of Police A.P. Surendran said: “Things are moving fast on Saturday. Helicopters and more boats have been pressed into service. We are confident we will be able to rescue more stranded people.”

More fishing boats from various places reached the affected areas during the day.

Alappuzha District Collector S. Suhas said since morning 150 boats including house boats have been engaged in rescuing people and “today (Saturday) we have by now evacuated about 75 per cent of people who were waiting to be rescued”.

Kerala Floods

Relief material being dispatched to Trivandrum

“Around two lakhs people are now in various camps. This could well be the biggest rescue operation. At some places the water is very rough and various types of boats are rescuing people,” Suhas .

Journalist-turned-CPI-M legislator Veena George on Saturday turned critical “due to the way the government machinery in Pathanamthitta has been working”.

“None has a clue of how many people have been rescued and how many are left to be rescued. There seems to be disconnect in coordination of the operations,” said George.

The situation in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad inched towards comparative normalcy as rains slowed and water level receded, with many living in crowded relief camps awaiting to return home.

But a landslide near Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district has left around 1,000 people cut off from the mainland and the Army is working to clear the debris.

At several places in waterlogged areas, banks could not function normally since staff failed to report for the duty due to flooding.

Railway services between Ernakulam and Thrissur remained suspended on Saturday with long-distance trains diverted via the Nagercoil route.

A trial run on the Kottayam sector took place later in the day, as all services on this route were suspended for the past two days.

Certain blockades on the Thrissur-Palakkad-Aluva highway was cleared for traffic. Army personnel worked hard to clear the roads to Munnar.

Kerala is facing the heaviest rains and consequent widespread floods and destruction since 1924, which the state estimates has caused a loss of over Rs 19,500 crore.

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Heavy rain continues to lash Karnataka district

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Bengaluru, Aug 18: Heavy rain leading to landslides and flooding continued to lash Karnataka’s Kodagu district, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said on Saturday.

“Rains have been causing massive damage in Kodagu. The state officials, along with Indian Army troops, Navy divers are carrying out rescue and relief operations on war-footing,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here.

He also conducted an aerial survey of landslides and flood-affected areas in Kodagu on Saturday.

Kodagu is one of the districts in the southern state worst hit by the south-west monsoon rains since June first week.

The landslides and heavy rain have claimed six lives in the district since Thursday, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said.

According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), the district received a maximum rainfall of up to 25.3 cm and an average rainfall of 11.9 cm over the past 24 hours.

Located in the Western Ghats mountain ranges, the incessant rain has been causing landslips across the region, making rescue operations difficult.

According to local media, hundreds of people remain stranded on various hills of the district.

Telecom services, disrupted due to the rain and strong winds uprooting poles and snapping phone lines, are being restored on priority, Kumaraswamy said.

“About 60 Dogra Regiment soldiers and 12 expert naval divers rescued 873 marooned people in the flood-hit district, where overnight heavy rain caused landslides and inundated low-lying areas at Makkanduru,” a statement from the CMO said on Friday night.

The Army’s engineering task force deployed 73 boats, equipment and rafts in rescuing the people and escorting them to safer places in the district.

About 60 members of the national and state disaster relief forces and 45 members of the civil defence joined the rescue and relief operations with boats and equipment in Madikeri in the hilly district.

The Indian Air Force, which could not airlift stranded people through chopper in the district due to inclement weather till Friday, is working to rescue people and transport relief materials, the CMO said.

Kumaraswamy has also requested Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to deploy additional military forces in Kodagu for rescue operations.

So far, the district administration has housed 573 people in 17 relief camps.

Schools and colleges have remained closed in the affected areas of Kodagu, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan districts due to the rains.

The South Western Railway (SWR) has cancelled its train services from Bengaluru towards Kannur and Ernakulam in flood-hit Kerala due to landslips and flooding.

State-run Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has also suspended several of its inter-state and intra-state bus services towards Kerala, owing to the flooded roads.

The Bengaluru division of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts that heavy rain will continue over the next two days in the coastal and south interior districts of the state, including Kodagu.

IANS

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