News Wrap


The pre-May 2014 Land Acquisition Act required 80% of land owners in India, must give their consent to acquisition for private projects. Prime Minister Narendra Modi government Bill exempts five kinds of projects, which include rural infrastructure, from consent of the land owners. The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation will be purchasing the entire power produced by Adani Green Energy (Tamil Nadu) Limited, in the five solar power generation centres, spread over Ramanathapuram district. Revenue officials do not have any role in the acquisition of 300,000 acres of land, which will have to be diverted to achieve the solar power targets. Such large scale projects require new transmission lines, which will need additional lands. Much of the proposed 100,000 mega watts can be based on rooftop solar power vehicles, which would enable massive land diversion and installation of new transmission lines and land based SPV systems.

Land acquisition law enacted pre-May 2014, has pushed up the cost of buying land for highway projects, almost six times over five years. The National Highway Authority of India estimates the initial price per hectare at Rs 3 crore (2015), compared to Rs 56 lac (2011-12).

Child Brides
It is illegal for girls under 18 and boys under 21, to marry in India, under the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. In 2014, 47% of girls in India were married before they turned 18. The practice is common in rural areas. Child marriages still take place as societal norms and pressures push people into breaking these rules. They can result in girls dropping out schools, early pregnancies, and mothers who are ill-equipped to raise children. The law on child marriages makes provision for annulments. India’s first annulment of a child marriage, occurred in 2012. One only has to prove that the bride was underage at the time of marriage, for an annulment. A birth certificate or school certificate can prove this. The process of annulment of a child marriage takes between three days and six months. Steadily an increasing number of teenage brides are turning to the courts for annulment, particularly in Hindi speaking backward areas. India has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. Divorce carries stigma in rural areas, where a woman will find it very hard to remarry. Divorce case hearing takes longer to rule in the overburdened courts. Legal cases are very expensive.

Congo Rape Victims
Congolese soldiers, three years ago, entered Minova after being ousted by M23 rebels, from the nearby city of Goma. Over the next three days they took their defeat out on the women and girls of Minova. 48 women were raped every hour, in Minova town, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of women were systematically raped by the soldiers, that drew international outrage, and the promise of intervention. Congolese troops in the hills around Minova, continue to rape with impunity. A recent army offensive against a nearby militia has prompted a fresh wave of sexual violence. The outcome of the Minova rape trials are being rigged by the military and the DRC government. The investigations are curtailed, exploiting pressure from the international community to act quickly. Evidence is incomplete or contradictory. No forensics are conducted. While there are over 1100 victims, only 56 women and girls have testified in court. 50 have since been threatened. Promises that the women would receive financial reparations have never materialized. Of the 39 Congolese soldiers who eventually appeared in court, only two junior soldiers were convicted of rape.

Water Revolution in Israel
More than half of the water for Israeli households is artificially produced. Israel has suffered from chronic water shortages and exploitation of its natural water resources for decades, with its Mediterranean part desert climate. The natural fresh water at Israel’s disposal in an average year does not cover its total use of roughly 525 billion gallons. The sea of Galilee in the north and the mountain and coastal acquifers, Israel’s main natural water sources, are severely depleted, threatening a potentially irreversible deterioration of the water quality. Currently Israel’s national effort to desalinate the Mediterranean sea water, and to recycle waste water has provided the country with enough water for all its needs, even during severe droughts. More than 50% of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced. Israel has become the world leader in recycling and re-using waste water for agriculture. It treats 86% of its domestic waste water and recycles it for agriculture use, which is about 55% of the total water used for agriculture. The country’s Water Authority overseas measures to increase the supply and reduce the demand. Wiser use of water has led to a reduction in household consumption of up to 18%. Four major desalination plants are in operation over the past decade. A fifth plant should be operating within months. Together they will produce more than 130 billion gallons of potable water annually, with a goal of 200 billion gallons by 2020. The two-tiered tariff system ensures the regular household water use is now subsidized by a slightly higher rate paid by those who consume more than the basic allotment.

While chronic fears of dry spells have ended, with desalination technology and intense recycling, the price of water is higher. Struggles between Israel and its Arab neighbours over water rights in the Jordan River were a contributing factor leading to the 1967 Middle East War. Israel shares the mountain aquifer with the West Bank, and claims it provides the Palestinians with more water, than it is obliged to under the existing peace accords. The Palestinians say that it is not enough, and too expensive.

Vol. 48, No. 11, Sep 20 - 26, 2015