Wednesday, March 21, 2012

India deploys thorium for nuclear power

Thorium plays a pivotal role in Indian Nuclear power program. In fact, right from the beginning of India's nuclear power program, use of thorium as an energy source has been contemplated. Work has been carried out on various aspects of thorium utilization-mining and extraction of thorium, fuel fabrication and irradiation in rectors, reprocessing and refabrication. In addition studies are underway for utilization of thorium in different types of reactors. This information was revealed by Minister of State in PMO  V. Narayansamy in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on 21 March.

The Minister said that India has vast reserves of Thorium. Total estimated reserves of monazite in India are about 10.7 million tones (containing about 0.84 million tones of thorium metal) occurring in beach and river sands in association with other heavy minerals. Out of nearly 100 deposits of the heavy minerals at present only 17 deposits containing about ~ 4 million tones of monazite have been identified as exploitable. Mineable reserves are ~70 % of identified exploitable resources. Therefore, about 2,25,000 tonnes of thorium metal is available for nuclear power program.

Stating further on the question,V. Narayansamy revealed that the third stage of Indian nuclear power program contemplates making use of Uranium-233 to fuel Uranium-233 –Thorium based rectors, which can provide energy independence to the country for several centuries. This will avoid the dependency on coal and natural gas.

The Minister informed the members that the use of Thorium as an energy source has been contemplated during the third phase of our nuclear power program. Right from the inception of Indian nuclear power program, work has been carried on various aspects of thorium utilization-mining and extraction of thorium, fuel fabrication, irradiation in reactors, reprocessing and refabrication. In addition, studies are underway for utilization of thorium in different types of reactors.


ISRO initiates India's spaceflight program

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has initiated pre-project Research and Development activities focusing on critical technologies for Human Spaceflight Program. The funds allocated towards this are to the tune of 145 crore rupees.

The distribution of funds for the various technical activities are under the major heads, Crew Module System (61 crore rupees), Man rating of launch vehicle (27 crore rupees), study contracts with national and international institutions (36 crore rupees) and other activities like aerodynamics characterization and mission studies (21 crore rupees). This information was revealed by Minister of State in PMO,V. Narayansamy in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on 21 March.

The Minister said that as part of the preparation of the Project Report of the Human Spaceflight Program, a study has been conducted on absorbing the program into the overall plans of ISRO without de-emphasizing other commitments.


Corporates join for Sustainable Development

The Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India, Jayanthi Natarajan  inaugurated on 21 March, the Global Compact Network National Convention in New Delhi.

Inaugurating the event, the Minister said “Economic growth, social development and environment protection are the three pillars of Sustainable development. Sustainability has different meanings in different contexts. For example, while developed countries are grappling with lifestyle sustainability, the developing countries are tackling issues of livelihood sustainability. For example, one cannot lecture a starved man on the virtues of Aitkens diet, or a villager with no electricity on wood conservation.”

The minister complimented the leading PSUs like SAIL and ONGC, which have come together to further the cause of sustainable development. Global efforts for sustainable development need to be fast-tracked and India has to contribute as a responsible member of world community, she added. Natarajan launched the GCNI website and released a policy paper by GCNI.

The welcome address and introduction of the theme was given by Mr. C S Verma, Chairman, SAIL & Chairman, Convention Committee, GCNI. He said “The convention will facilitate deliberations on the roadmap, targets, timelines and role of participating institutions. For manufacturing companies in India, reduction in green house gas emissions is the primary focus area.” He shared with the audience that the Department of Public Enterprises has released guidelines for sustainable development, which make it a part of the MOUs that the PSUs sign with the government.

Mr. Verma said that SAIL is taking the lead in minimizing its foot-print on environment. Significant investments on technology and processes are being made to bring down energy consumption, emissions load, effluent discharge, water and raw material usage. SAIL has also adopted a long term strategy to invest into renewable energy technologies in steel-making processes.
Mr. S Vasudeva, Chairman and Managing Director, ONGC and President, GCNI highlighted that “There are two thrust areas that need more focused approach for sustainable development to happen fast. One is creating an equitable and enabling framework and its diligent implementation. The second is to also act fast on not only push factors but also pull factors, that incentivize volunteerism.”
Mr Patrice Coeur- Bizot, Resident Coordinator, UNDP India expressed happiness over the enthusiastic participation in the convention which brings together United nation bodies, business community and the government. Due emphasis on sustainable development in India’s 12th five-year plan signifies the importance being given by India to the cause. The Rio +20 and beyond will go a long way in balancing and resetting of the global development agenda, he added.
The theme for this year’s convention was ‘Corporate Perspective on Sustainable Development: Rio+20 and Beyond’. This Convention strived to deliberate on 3 issues which are:
  • Green economy in context of sustainable development,

  • Equity and human wellbeing

  • Enabling framework for action through innovation, partnerships and best practices.

The findings of this convention shall be discussed at Mumbai Sustainability Summit in April and also presented at the Rio +20 sustainability forum to be hosted by United Nations Global Compact prior to the Rio+20 or the ‘Earth Summit 2012’ in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Some key representatives from various sectors shared their opinion on corporate sustainability during this high profile convention.
The event assumes significance in view of the fact that the heads of governments will converge in Rio in June to discuss sustainability agenda and take subsequent actions to deepen their engagement with various stakeholders to take lead from the front to align their business leadership with sustainability.

Nuclear power cost depends on technology

The public sector undertaking, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), under the department of atomic energy, is having discussions with foreign companies for supply of equipments for setting up large capacity Reactors on technical cooperation basis.

These companies are M/s Atomstroy export (ASE) of Russian Federation, M/s AREVA of France, M/s Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) and M/s GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy of USA. This information was revealed by Minister of State in PMO, V Narayansamy in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on 21 March.

The Minister said that the cost of nuclear power, inter-alia, depends on the type of technology, life of plant, cost of fuel etc. The levelised cost of power from Light Water Reactors (LWRs) being set up in the country with foreign technical cooperation is expected to be comparable to that of similar plants in developed countries.

Government Plans to Eliminate Measles and Tetanus from India

The Government of India has decided to strive towards elimination of measles and Neonatal Tetanus from the country. The Government of India has initiated measles catch-up campaign in year 2010 targeting 13.5 crore children and included second dose of measles vaccine under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP).

Neonatal tetanus is prevented by providing tetanus toxoid vaccination under UIP to pregnant women and children. In addition, institutional delivery is promoted for clean and safe delivery through Jannani Suraksha Yojana and other interventions including Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram.

The patients suffering from measles and neonatal tetanus are decreasing. The number of reported measles cases has decreased from 56188 in 2009 to 29462 in 2011. Similarly the number of reported neonatal tetanus cases has decreased from 898 in 2009 to 653 in 2011 as per the report of Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), Government of India.As per the report of CBHI, the total number of persons who died because of measles and neonatal tetanus during last three years is as below:


Reported Deaths








Neonatal tetanus




The above information was given by the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Rajya Sabha on 20th March.

Government fights to control drug resistant TB

All states/UTs have introduced services with variable access across 260 districts in the country to control drug-resistant TB. A cumulative total of 6994 drug-resistant TB cases have been put on treatment in the country under Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). The Ministry is continuously monitoring these services in the country.

Government of India has laid emphasis on early diagnosis and complete treatment of drug-sensitive TB cases under RNTCP to prevent emergence of drug-resistant TB.

Cases of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) are sporadically reported in the country. Recently 12 cases of XDR-TB were reported in Mumbai. In the terminology of WHO, the term “totally drug-resistant tuberculosis (TDR-TB)”does not exist. 12 cases recently reported in Mumbai were all extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) cases.

The Government of India introduced diagnosis and management of cases of drug-resistant TB in 2007. The diagnosis and treatment protocols for all forms of drug-resistant TB including XDR-TB have been developed, disseminated and are in-force in the country.

Thirty seven (37) accredited quality-assured culture and drug susceptibility testing laboratories to diagnose drug-resistant TB cases and 50 specialized wards with air-borne infection control measures for initiation and monitoring of such TB patients on treatment are functional in the country. Quality-assured diagnosis and drugs for treatment of drug-resistant TB cases are provided free of cost to all confirmed drug-resistant TB cases registered under the programme.

The above information was given by the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Rajya Sabha.

Ministry Provides Information on Environment Assessment on Web

Information pertaining to project clearances like Agenda of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) meetings, minutes of the meetings, copies of scoping clearance and Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessment/Environment Management Plan Reports, Environment Clearance letters etc. are regularly uploaded on the website of the Ministry.


The Minister of State for Environment & Forest, Jayanthi Natarajan in Rajya sabha stated on 2oth March that all Acts, Rules, Guidelines and circulars related to environmental clearance for developmental projects and constitution of EACs are available on the website of the Ministry.


The Central Information Commission has directed the Ministry to post Form-1, Form-1A, additional information received from the Project Proponents in response to the queries of EAC, site visit reports and site specific study reports on the website of the Ministry from 1st April, 2012. As per the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, relevant information pertaining to the environment clearance, as mentioned above is posted on the website of the Ministry.
In reply to another question, Jayanthi Natarajan informed the House that Ministry of Environment and Forests had constituted a Task Force to evolve a policy on “Environmentally Sound Management of mercury in Fluorescent Lamps”. A Technical Committee, constituted by this Task Force, had prepared “Guidelines for Environmentally Sound Mercury Management in Fluorescent Lamps Sector”.
These guidelines prescribe the best practices at various levels, such as at manufacturer’s level and include aspects relate to mercury consumption, process technology, raw mercury distillation, on-site storage, treatment, recycling and disposal of mercury bearing wastes, mercury spill management. The best practices at consumer’s level include handling of used/broken lamps, consumer awareness pertaining to collection, transport, treatment and disposal of used fluorescent lamps.


Natarajan added that Ministry of Environment and Forests and Central Pollution Control Board have written to all the State Governments and Union Territories to encourage establishment of recycling units so that the fused Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and Fluorescent Tube lights (FTLs) are properly collected and the mercury is recovered and recycled scientifically and safely.

Government to provide free generic medicines to poor

The proposal for the 12th Five Year Plan includes a new initiative to supply essential medicines free of cost for patients seeking healthcare in public health facilities. This is with a view to bring down out-of-pocket expenditure and thereby provide affordable healthcare to the poor and vulnerable sections of the society.

The framework for this initiative shall include formulation of State essential drug list, standard treatment guidelines, institutionalized procurement of quality essential medicines and supply chain management alongwith an accountability and oversight mechanism.

The above information was given by the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Rajya Sabha.

Expenditure on Health Sector in India

As per Economic Survey 2011-12, the health expenditure by General Government (Central and State Government combined) as percentage of the GDP is 1.30 (BE) in 2011-12. The expenditure by State Governments on health sector is important in raising the overall public expenditure on health sector. Presently, States and Union Territories together account for about two third of total health outlay.

The Eleventh Five Year Plan envisaged increasing total health expenditure at the Centre and the States to at least 2 per cent of GDP by the end of the Five Year Plan period.
During the 11th Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12), Central Plan allocation to health sector has been Rs. 99,491 crore as against actual expenditure of Rs. 36,079 crore during the 10th Five Year Plan. The Central Government has taken several steps to increase public health expenditure, which inter-alia, include:

  • Launching of National Rural Health Mission with a view to provide accessible, affordable, accountable, effective and quality healthcare services, especially to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population.

  • Implementation of programmes for control of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

  • Mainstreaming of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy.

  • Setting up of the Centres of excellence on the pattern of AIIMS, alongwith upgradation of government medical colleges through PMSSY

  • Strengthening human resources in the health sector, with focus on Medical education, Para-medical education and Nursing and Pharmacy education.

The above information was given by the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Rajya Sabha.

Control of Anaemia in children in India

The prevalence of anaemia in children, married women and pregnant women in the country has shown an increase, as revealed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – III conducted during 2005-06 in comparison to NFHS – II conducted in 1998-99 as per following details:


Prevalence of Anaemia

NFHS II (1998-99)

NFHS III (2005-06)

Children (6-35 months)



Married women



Pregnant women



The cause of anaemia is multifactorial and various reasons include (a) inadequate intake of food (cereals, pulses, meat products) and vegetables rich in iron and folate, (b) poor bio-availability of iron in diet, (c) high incidence of hookworm infestation and (d) high incidence of malaria
The Reproductive & Child Health Programme under the umbrella of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is implementing various interventions for prevention and control of anaemia among children and pregnant women.

The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the Rajya Sabha on 20th March about the following interventions by the Government:
  • Universal screening of pregnant women for anaemia as part of ante-natal care and supplementation with iron and folic acid tablets to all pregnant and lactating women. Pregnant and lactating women are provided with Iron– folic acid (IFA) tablet for 100 days during pregnancy. The Intra Uterine Device acceptors are also provided IFA tablets for 100 days in a year.
  • The weekly iron-folic acid supplements (WIFS) has recently been introduced for adolescent girls in order to increase their pre-pregnancy iron stores and decrease prevalence of anaemia.
  • Children from 6 months to 10 years are provided IFA supplementation in syrup/tablet form for at least 100 days in a year.
  • Children under 5 years of age are provided deworming tablets/ syrups twice a year to reduce the parasite load.

  • Identification and tracking of severely anaemic pregnant women at all the sub centres and PHCs for their timely management.
  • Health and nutrition education during VHNDs to promote dietary diversification, inclusion of iron folate rich food as well as food items that promotes iron absorption.
  • Distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINs) and Insecticide Treated Bed Nets (ITBNs) in malaria endemic areas to tackle the problem of anaemia due to malaria particularly in pregnant women and children.

Conservation of Wetland in Greater Noida

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan informed in Rajya Sabha on 20th March that a complaint had been received regarding reclamation of wetland habitats in Bil Akbarpur, Greater Noida by Ansal Private Limited. 

A Central team was sent to verify factual position and as per report, condition no. 22 of Environmental Clearance (EC) by State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, U.P. which states that no wetland should be infringed during construction and operation phases and any wetland coming in the project area should be suitably rejuvenated and conserved, has not been complied.

The Minister clarified that though there are no corroborative evidences to show 200 endangered species of birds, however, as per survey conducted by Uttar Pradesh Government in 2009 Bil Akbarpur has been identified as an important wetland covering 4 hectare area. This wetland harbours a good concentration of Avian Fauna in terms of biodiversity and density, and is considered to be a viable avian habitat.


Natarajan informed the house that on the basis of field inspection, a show cause notice was issued to the builders under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, to stop any construction/Earth Filling/land reclamation work in the vicinity of wetland and lands having characteristics of wetlands.