Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bid to clean up Capital's air ahead of Commonwealth Games

Accelerating the pace of cleaning up the Capital's air ahead of the Commonwealth Games this October, the State Environment Department is looking at all aspects of controlling air pollution including setting up more air monitoring stations and advocating lesser vehicular congestion on city roads.

“We are working at providing better air quality and the Delhi Transport Department is also looking into the possibility of controlling traffic congestion by levying tax on motorist using congested areas during the sporting event,'' said State Environment Secretary Dharmendra on Monday while speaking at a discussion on “Clean air before the Commonwealth Games'' organised by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Environment experts participating in the discussion noted that Delhi's pollution levels are daunting and the city will need to work at a frenetic pace to ensure that it cleans up its air exactly the way Beijing did for the 2008 Olympics.

“Clearing the haze takes on a specific significance in the context of the Games as athletes have to perform to potential, especially in extreme endurance events and they need clean air. With every breath athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air and thus pollutants,'' said Centre for Science and Environment's air pollution unit head Anumita Roychowdhury. The CSE recently analysed the air quality data monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board and found the levels of tiny particles very high and climbing. “In fact, they have hit the pre-CNG days. Nitrogen oxide levels are rising in Delhi. This is strongly related to vehicular activity and needs stringent control. The number of days with ozone levels exceeding the standards is high in both summer and winter months. Studies in Delhi have shown that the pollution concentrations can invariably be 40-80 per cent higher during the winter months,'' said Ms. Roychowdhury.

The CSE has suggested that Delhi must be ready with an emergency plan for the Games and test it out before the event. “Reducing personal vehicle usage, upgrading public transport, walking and cycling, and leapfrogging vehicle technology are the key options left for us. Scale and stringency of action and enforcement are needed for effective impact and to meet clean air targets,'' said Ms. Roychowdhury.

“Already the report of the Commonwealth Games Evaluation Commission has stated that mobility within Delhi is difficult and congested and, therefore, a risk area. The Capital has already unleashed reforms to reduce traffic congestion in the city prior to the Games,'' added Ms. Roychowdhury.

A CSE release said: “After relocating polluting industry and stalling further expansion of power generation inside Delhi, rapidly rising numbers of personal vehicles hinders clean air action in Delhi. Vehicles are one of the key pushers of pollution in Delhi.''

Commonwealth Games hold DU hostels hostage

The Commonwealth Games will play a spoiler for many students seeking admission to Delhi University colleges.

The candidates looking to study in the varsity colleges will not be allotted hostel seats till the Games are over. The hostels will be used to accommodate athletes participating in the Games to be held in October.

So most outstation candidates may have to think twice before taking admissions.

The colleges have already asked second and third year students to vacate the hostels when the Games are in progress.

Principal P.C. Jain of Shri Ram College of Commerce said the college has about 40 per cent of outstation students.

“We will be unable to give any hostel accommodation for the first-year students since the renovation work is underway. They will be allotted seats only after the Games are over. But we will look at other viable options for students,” Jain said.

Colleges such as Hindu and Lady Shri Ram may allot seats to the candidates but they would be asked to move in only after the Games. The wait may actually dissuade students from applying to the university.

“I am new to the city and have no relatives in the city. I was planning to apply to only those colleges which have hostel facilities for girls,” said Radhika Goyal, a DU aspirant from Lucknow.

“The hostels give us a sense of security. But my parents are apprehensive now.”

With no hostels accommodation students will be looking towards paying guests accommodation.

But these will not come cheap as the owners of the PGs are already charging hefty fee as their demand has shot up since the second and third year students will also be availing these accommodations.

The prices have already shot up from Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,500 for a twin-sharing room in areas such as Roop Nagar which is closer to the campus colleges.

But students can take heart as colleges such as Miranda House will allot seats to the first-year students.

“The first-year students will be allotted hostel accommodation as of now,” said Pratibha Jolly, principal of Miranda House. “Should there be a situation where they need to vacate, we will arrange for safe and secure accommodation for them in consultation with parents and local guardians. Whatever the charges, the college will bear them.”

Participation in Nationals compulsory for CWG selection

The Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) on Tuesday said that all the boxers, notwithstanding their reputation, had to take part in the National championship in July in order to be eligible for the selection of the Commonwealth Games squad.

Following an executive board meeting of the federation here, IBF Secretary-General Col. P.K. Muralidharan Raja said a different method would be adopted instead of picking boxers from just one-off selection trial.

No relaxation

“All the boxers in the core group of Commonwealth Games will have to participate in the National championship. Participation is compulsory. Unless somebody is medically unfit, there would be no relaxation,” Co. Raja said.

“It is not that you have to win a medal in the Nationals to be eligible for the Games trials, but participation is compulsory,” he added.

According to Col. Raja, the IBF would take into account the track record of a boxer in international tournaments and training sessions, his performance in the Nationals and his showing in the selection trials (to be held in the first week of September) before selecting him.

The IBF regulation, to be put in the federation website sooner than later, will ensure the participation of some star boxers, who have been skipping the National championship for several years, in the event.

Col. Raja said during the Nationals, the IBF would give a token incentive to a boxer for winning each bout.

He said the IBF was trying to hire a foreign coach for the women boxers and he would be appointed by mid-June.

Among other important topics, the IBF focused on providing decent accommodation and food to the boxers during a National championship of any level and beginning the effort of building a ‘Boxing Bhawan' — a permanent abode for the federation.

Can’t provide cover to Games venues now, say security agencies

The security establishment has turned down a request from the organisers of the Commonwealth Games to provide immediate cover to venues and the athletes’ Village in the Capital. India’s security agencies are stretched; besides, there is no precedent of providing protection for a public event this early on, the organisers have been told.

The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held between October 3 and October 14, still nearly five months away. The organisers had asked for security in view of the persistent threat of terrorist attacks on Games venues, at many of which work is still ongoing, and safety concerns expressed by international sports delegations and heads of missions of Commonwealth countries.

The Delhi Police and central paramilitary forces, working under the supervision of the Union Home Ministry, and in collaboration with central intelligence agencies, will be responsible for the security of venues and the Village at the time of the Games.

Top sources in the security establishment told Newsline that they have argued that police and security agencies do not take full charge of venues like Rajpath or the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium up until a few days before the Republic Day parade or a popular One-Day or T20 cricket match.

There was no deviation from this policy “even when an India-Pakistan match was staged at this ground in 2005 and (was) witnessed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and (the then) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf,” security agencies have told the Games organisers.

For the Republic Day and Beating the Retreat parades — which are attended by thousands including VVIPs and foreign dignitaries — security agencies start covering the saluting base area from mid-November onwards, and the police begin to cordon off areas in the Central Vista only in January.

“If there is an apprehension of something (like a bomb) being planted in the (Games) venues, then that will hold good for the Central Vista, the parade route from Central Vista to Red Fort, Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort and Amedkar Stadium, where international matches are held,” the agencies argued.

According to top security officials, a pre-event lockdown is essentially a task for the venue-owners, and security and law enforcement agencies cannot in any case secure venues indefinitely in the post-Games period.

Melbourne Commonwealth Games 2006: Security— including searching and frisking — was provided by private agencies London Olympics 2012: Private security agencies have been roped in to play a significant role

Delhi MLAs eye Games Village flats, Dikshit says flat no

Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit has rejected the state legislators' demand to allocate them the luxurious Commonwealth Games Village flats near Akshardham temple on preferential basis and discounted price.

Dikhshit gave this information to her Congress colleague and party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi in response to his letter to her, expressing outrage and concern over the demand by legislators.

"I have received your letter dated May 2, expressing your concern and disappointment over the MLAs' (member of legislative assembly) demand for the CWG Village flats," Dixit told Singhvi in her reply.

"In the democracy, every member and citizen has a right to express his/her opinion. It was a suggestion by some of the MLAs, the chief minister said, adding that her government had no intention to accede to the demand.

Citing media reports on MLAs' demand for a preferential allocation of the Games Village flats to them on concessional rates, Singhvi wrote to the chief minister that "as a citizen and parliamentarian of this country, I am concerned, disappointed and outraged at the MLAs' demand."

"I find it regrettable, objectionable indeed, that such a demand has been made, said Singhvi, adding that the demand, if met, is surely to be held illegal by courts and bound to be set aside.

GoM discuss theme of the CWG opening ceremony

A high level meeting convened by Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy on Tuesday discussed the details of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games here to be held in October.

Apart from Reddy, Sports Minister M S Gill, Tourism Minister Selja, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and officials attended the meeting to finalise the theme for the opening ceremony.

Noted film-maker Shyam Benegal, who plays an important role in the creative designing of the opening ceremony too attended the meeting.

"We discussed the opening ceremony. There was a detailed discussion. A final decision would be taken on March 22," Gill told reporters after the meeting.

Benegal said he was "happy" at the outcome of the meeting and said a final decision about the opening ceremony will be taken in the next meeting.

IRCTC wins catering rights for CWG

IRCTC, a railway PSU, has bagged the rights to provide catering service to sportspersons at the Commonwealth Games venues in the national capital apart from selling tickets online for the event.

“IRCTC will offer catering services to sportspersons as well as team officials as per their dietary requirement during the Commonwealth Games,” said a railway official, adding a special team has been constituted to oversee the food served.

The catering service will be provided by IRCTC in about eight sporting venues during the course of the event which begins on 3 October, the official said.

The railway subsidiary had earlier got the contract of Rs12 crore to become the official ticketing agency for the Games and will develop a dedicated website for issuing tickets of the event.

The official said a nodal office has also been set up by IRCTC which will oversee the entire catering operation and hold consultations with nutrition experts and others.

Entertaining the spectators with mouth-smacking delicacies is another department that IRCTC is eyeing, the official said.

Chipping in to make the Games popular across the country, Indian Railways has also decided to run a special Commonwealth Games train touching about 60 stations.

The train will trudge on the routes through which the Queens Baton Relay will pass and the timings of the halt will coincide with the relay, the official said.

The train which will be dedicated to the themes of youth, sports and information technology, will comprise 14 coaches, bringing alive the spirit of Commonwealth Games in its varied hues.

Disabled athletes won't participate in some CWG events

Owing to lack of facilities, disabled Indian sportspersons will not be able to take part in a few of the 15 disability sporting events in the Commonwealth Games, an NGO said Tuesday.

Among the 15 disability sporting events are athletics, swimming and table tennis.

"If a nation does not do well in disability sports, its overall position will be impacted. As much as Rs.130 million was allocated to train disabled athletes, but when we asked the sports ministry as to what happened to that money they did not give any proper answer," Javed Abidi of the NGO, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) said.

"Disabled athletes here continue to suffer. In fact, it is learnt that India won't participate in as many as four events because we don't have sporty racing wheelchairs. Each costs Rs.200,000-300,000 which you and I can't afford but what about the Sports Authority of India," he asked.

To voice their angst, members of the NCPEDP along with disabled athletes are planning to stage a protest outside the sports ministry Wednesday.

"The sports ministry needs to be held accountable in this matter," Abidi said.

Water plant for Games to be inaugurated in June

Meant exclusively for the Commonwealth Games Village on the banks of the Yamuna, the one-million-gallon per day water treatment plant and sewage treatment plant are all set for a June inauguration.

The two plants that are also the only ones of their kind in the city are little behind schedule, but officials of the Delhi Jal Board, the agency that is carrying out the work of building the plants, claim that work has picked pace and trial runs can begin within the next fortnight.

“Work is going on at full steam and we are hopeful of starting the trial runs in the next few weeks. The plants are otherwise almost ready and we are looking at June for the inauguration of these plants,” said a senior DJB official.

Referring to the delay in commissioning of the plants, he said: “The civil work is over and what we are doing currently is finishing works. The equipment is in place and most of the other work is also meeting the deadlines set. The equipment being used is very sophisticated and its alignment and assembling requires great precision.”

Built using state-of-the-art technology, the STP will use tertiary cleaning process to produce water that will be fit for all non-potable use. And the water produced at the WTP will be fit for drinking straight from the tap.

“The water generated at the WTP will be so clean that the consumer will not be required to use a water purifier separately at home. The water will meet all parameters required to make it fit for consumption, straight from the tap. But since we do not want to take any chances with the transmission of it, we will provide a reverse osmosis (RO) system as well,” said the official.

The plants in the precincts of the Games Village are almost 8 to 10 times more expensive that the ordinary STPs and WTPs.


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