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Devpreet Singh new CBI spokesperson
The Times of India, 25 August 2015
NEW DELHI: Devpreet Singh has been appointed as the new CBI spokesperson in place of Kanchan Prasad who will resume charge as director (News) in Doordarshan News. In an order issued by information and broadcasting ministry, Singh, who was on a study leave for completion of her PhD, has been appointed as chief information officer with effect from September 9 next month. A 1992-batch Indian Information Service officer, Singh was director (News-News Services Division) All India Radio before she went on a sabbatical. Her leave, which had been taken for pursuing PhD programme on "sustainable development and communication: a case study of law relating to environment in India" from Teri university, stands curtailed till September 8 next month. Her services have been placed with the CBI for post for a period of one year or till the post is filled up on deputation basis. Prasad, after she is relieved from the CBI, will continue to work on her earlier post as Director (News) Doordarshan news, the order said.

Activists oppose clear cutting of exotic species in Palani Hills
The Hindu, 24 August 2015
Environmentalists feel allowing rainforest species to grow will effectively stop the spread of wattle in the grasslands. A file picture of workers collecting the cleared wattle tree logs in Kodaikanal.— Photo: Kodaikanal Forest Division Say Forest department plan will prove to be an ecological disaster Naturalists and environmentalists here have appealed to the government to be cautious while removing exotic species like wattle and eucalyptus which are spread in more than 200 square km in the Palni hills. The Forest Department has a proposal for clear cutting these two exotic species. “Clearcutting will be an ecological disaster affecting the entire ecosystem of the watersheds across north and south of the Palni Hills,” says Pippa Mukherjee of INTACH. Instead, the department should let Shola (rainforest) species to grow and prosper in the wattle shade and finally overtake the exotic species. This can effectively stop the spread of wattle in the grasslands, say activists. “In this process, the wattle will die of fungal disease naturally without sunlight,” says Ms. Mukherjee. “We should understand that old wattle forest will act as a nursery for new shola [native species] growth because many of the shola species like shade to germinate and wattle lives on sun light,” she added. Using chainsaws to remove wattle would certainly worsen the situation, warn activists, emphasising that clearcutting wattle as part of forestry management or resource management could prove to have disastrous consequences. World over, clear cutting is seen as detrimental to rain forest ecosystems, she said. After clearcutting of wattle, lantana camera (unni) and other exotic, bushy weeds would grow with the exposure to the heat and light in the open field. Moreover, sunlight simply encourages regeneration of tonnes of wattle seeds that remain viable for germination for fifty years. Indiscriminate felling of wattle and eucalyptus would also annihilate new shola saplings and other small trees, says R. Kannan of Palni Hills Conservation Council (PHCC). A guided tour of the clearcut areas would certainly offer a first-hand experience of the irremediable devastation already wrought in the Palni Hills, he said, urging the government to take up a short term survey. Silviculture “Movement of heavy vehicles into plantation areas would also destroy regeneration of native species. Ultimately, it would lead to mini-ecological disaster. Inhibit its spread from plantations into existing native grasslands through regular culling. Allowing them to die naturally would be viable solution to wattle menace,” recommends P. R. Ashok Raj of ACT India Foundation. To restore Shola forests, Aalap Dikshit, Department of Natural Resources, TERI University, New Delhi, who did research on wattle in Kodaikanal, too opposes removing acacia plantations and to consider silvicultural options in the management of the plantations to enhance the nursing effect on shola tree species. Directing the State government to file a status report before on September 28, the Madras High Court made it clear that it was not issuing any direction to cut down wattle and eucalyptus trees from the Western Ghats.

Second wind
The Hindu Business Line, 13 August 2015
Discoms’ finances key to growth of renewables India’s renewable energy journey, which had a humble start in the 1970s, has been nothing if not eventful. During these four decades, the country has covered many milestones and the sector has set its sight on a goal of 175 GW renewables-based electricity by 2022. Still, the sector faces several challenges, chief among are the conventional ones — power evacuation, power absorption, and land provision. Power evacuation, or lack of it, affects renewable energy power generation in two ways. First, all these generation plants, situated in far flung areas, have to have access to transmission lines so that whatever electricity they generate can be evacuated and transported to consumers. Our transmission network must be enlarged and strengthened to absorb much larger quantum of electricity. Taking it to them Then, there is the case of inter-State transmission. One of the main premises of going in for such large-scale exploitation of renewable energy is that renewable resource-deficit states can take benefit of power generated in renewable resource-rich States that may have surplus power. Here lies a big bottleneck. Power generators located in the eastern part of the country have not been to sell their electricity to north India due to severe congestion in the transmission grid. Though the Centre has started ‘green energy corridors’ project besides giving final touches to a 20-year plan for the transmission sector, pace of actual implementation of such plans would determine how fast we can move towards our renewable energy goal. The other point of concern pertains to the ultimate off-taker of renewable electricity, which is the distribution utility (discom) in majority of the cases. Almost all of our discoms are in very bad shape financially. The Ministry of Power estimates that accumulated losses of State discoms stood at .?1.9 lakh crore in 2012. No wonder that the discoms are reluctant to buy even conventional electricity despite existing demand. They would rather resort to load shedding than increase losses by supplying power. Land and other worries In such a scenario, their unwillingness to buy relatively expensive renewable electricity, which is intermittent in nature, is not too difficult to understand. Unless the issues plaguing their financial health are addressed through measures such as sectoral reforms and transparent tariff-setting, meeting renewable power obligations and timely payment to renewable power generators will remain a challenge. One of the key reasons for the Renewable Energy Certificates market not picking up can also be traced back to this basic problem. However, it is incorrect to project that with the kinds of goals we have, the price of electricity to the consumer would become prohibitive. Several estimates show that the impact of the increasing share of renewable electricity would be marginal overall. Nonetheless, consumer tariffs must be reflective of that. Given that solar and wind energy projects are land-intensive, albeit requiring non-productive land, the fate and contours of the land acquisition Act would have far reaching implications on such projects. With the government encouraging large wind farms and ultra-megawatt solar power projects, timely availability of land at reasonable prices becomes crucial. Thus, the success in renewable energy field is very much dependent on the effectiveness of measures initiated to unblock these conventional and chronic bottlenecks. By Amit Kumar The writer is senior fellow at the department of energy and environment, TERI University


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India trade mission a success
Concordia Journal, 11 February 2010

Under the agreement with TERI [The Energy and Resources Institute] University, to take just one example, researchers will be working on climate change, biofuels and sustainable business, all recognized areas of strength at Concordia.


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