If the Security Council were truly concerned about Iran's nuclear programme, it would have lifted sanctions in the light of the IAEA's latest report and thereby secured Iranian adherence to the Additional Protocol. On Monday evening, the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 with one abstention to impose a fresh set of sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its civilian nuclear fuel cycle programme. The resolution had the backing of not just the United States, Britain and France but also Russia and China. The latter two, who have made much of their official commitment to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue, justified their support for the latest resolution by adver tising the absence of any reference to the "use of force' in its language. But this reading of the text is wilfully na

To revamp the transport scenario ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the Delhi Government will introduce 10,000 new buses -- including modern low-floor ones -- within two years and as many as 20 per cent of them would be air-conditioned to bring more personal vehicle users on to the public transport network, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday. Speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of Asiad Village Community Centre, Ms. Dikshit said Delhi would also become self-sufficient in power by 2010. The foundation stone of the gas-based 1,500 MW power plant at Bawana would be laid by the Prime Minister on March 24, she announced. Pointing out that consumption of power had been increasing by 9 per cent to 10 per cent per annum, she said efforts were being made to increase availability of power. Claiming that power theft had declined from 52 per cent to 28 per cent, Ms. Dikshit also stressed the need for power and water conservation to meet the rising demand. The Chief Minister also made a note of the water crisis in the Capital, saying while the Government had worked hard to get the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant commissioned, it had been facing difficulty in getting raw water for it from the neighbouring States.

In an attempt to beautify the Capital in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has chalked out an ambitious project to upgrade street-lighting in Delhi at a cost of Rs.200 crore. In a statement on Tuesday, MCD Standing Committee Chairman Vijender Gupta said over 900 km of roads greater than 60 feet in width would be provided with ultra-modern streetlights based on international standards. "The lights and poles will be galvanised to prevent rusting. The new lights will illuminate a greater area and also reduce consumption of electricity due their energy-efficient technology. An automatic system of switching the lights on and off will enable monitoring of the lights from within the control rooms,' said Mr. Gupta. According to him, the lights will adhere to "IP68' specifications and will not be affected by dust, mosquitoes or moisture besides being metered.

High domestic and global prices still pose inflationary threat Rebutting the charge by India Inc. that the Union budget ignored the corporate sector, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday defended the proposed farm loan waiver scheme in the name of food security, saying high domestic and global prices still posed an inflationary threat. "One of the reasons why inflation is still a threat is food price in India,' he said during a post-budget interaction with industry chambers here. "If we grow enough food to feed our people, we are insulated from world prices, but if we are dependent on imports we are subject to world prices,' he said, noting that after a long gap, India had become a marginal importer of foodgrains, which was a dangerous omen. "No country with as large a population as India can be dependent on imports [of foodgrains].' Buttressing his point, Mr. Chidambaram noted that since April last year, the global prices of wheat and rice had risen by 88 and 15 per cent. "Taking all this into account, we came to the conclusion that the distress of the farmers calls for an unorthodox response. And the response was farm loan waiver.' Referring to the corporates' charge, the Minister said: "I have not forgotten the corporate sector. Despite the advice given by my Chief Economic Adviser and the suggestion in the Economic Survey, we accepted your demand for retaining peak customs duty rate.' The corporates would also indirectly benefit from proposals such as excise duty cuts and relief given to personal income-tax payers as these, in turn, would spur demand for consumer goods. The Central Sales Tax, a levy on inter-State sale of goods, was also proposed to be reduced from three to two per cent in the next fiscal. Besides, the budget sought to lift the tax deducted at source (TDS) from listed corporate debt as also avoid double taxation on dividends paid by domestic companies and their subsidiaries. Tax sops A number of tax sops were provided to the hotel and hospitality industry. "What we have done is sufficient to keep the engine of growth running at full speed

The Congress on Tuesday gave a clear indication that following the "convergence of views' in the India-specific safeguards agreement talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this weekend, the UPA government was all set to go ahead with the India-U.S. nuclear agreement. Even as the Left parties reiterated their opposition to the deal in response to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's suo motu statement on foreign policy in Parliament on Monday, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: "We are happy at the significant progress made at the IAEA talks [over the weekend]. We are particularly happy that vast and diverse areas of differences [towards India-specific safeguards] have been ironed out in the fifth round and we are optimistic about the outcome of the talks at IAEA.' In his statement, Mr. Singhvi categorically conveyed that "with the broad agreement in the IAEA and with the virtual acceptance of most, if not all, of India's concerns,' the Congress was confident of a "reasonable approach by all sections [Left parties] of the joint mechanism' on the deal. "As far as the Congress is concerned, it is committed to the deal and reiterates that it will be beneficial to the country. With this new development of convergence of views in the fifth round of talks, we are optimistic, hopeful and positive. The deal is in the interest of the nation,' he asserted. An India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA would enable the Nuclear Suppliers' Group to amend its guidelines for civilian nuclear commerce to the advantage of India. This would enable India to have bilateral civilian nuclear trade cooperation with countries like the U.S., the U.K., Russia and France. Safeguards issue Asked about the Left's concerns on the Hyde Act, Mr. Singhvi said the talks at the IAEA were about India-specific safeguards, most of which had been addressed. A senior Congress leader indicated that after waiving farmers' debt, the Congress-led UPA hopes to bring the nuclear deal centre stage in this crucial election year.

We write to thank The Hindu for the timely and well-informed editorial on the future of the Olive Ridley (March 3). Sea turtles are believed to have evolved at least 200 million years ago and the Olive Ridley has found mention in the Sangam literature (400 AD). But in recent years, the increased anthropogenic pressures on the coast are threatening to wipe out these ancient creatures from our beaches and oceans. Some steps that can be taken to protect the Olive Ridley are: making the use of Turtle Excluder Devices mandatory; implementing the restriction on trawlers in fishing; and enforcing the Coastal Regulation Zone laws on buildings along the coast. V. Arun, Co-ordinator, Students' Sea turtle Conservation Network, Chennai * * * The editorial has elucidated the alarming situation the endangered species is facing. To combat this precarious scenario, the government should allocate some funds as it did in the case of tigers. The forest department should plant more eco-friendly plants such as mangroves to offset the damage caused by the indiscriminate exploitation of the eco-system. Efforts should be made to impart awareness on the issue. P. Jyothiradityan, Palakkad * * * Not only do casuarina plantations and illumination but also nets used by local fishermen, mushrooming of aqua farms, industrial effluents, poaching of eggs, and oil exploration activities in the nesting sites cause the decline of the Olive Ridley. Besides the breeding ground, the feeding ground of the Olive Ridley also faces huge pressure, thanks to the overexploitation of species such as crabs, shrimp, lobsters, sea grasses, algae, snails, fish and other small invertebrates living within 150 metres of the seashore. If the same trend persists, Olive Ridley will become extinct soon. S. Sandilyan, Mayiladuthurai * * * The editorial was something that we, the turtle researchers, have been looking forward to. I sincerely appreciate the effort of The Hindu in highlighting the issue. Sea turtles have their own ecological role and are vital for a healthy ecosystem. It is highly pathetic that the Orissa coast has turned out to be a graveyard for the Olive Ridley. A. Murugan, Tuticorin

The world now lives in cities. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report released recently, the world population has decisively turned urban. About 3.3 billion people live in urban areas and by 2030 that would increase to about 5 billion. This amounts to more than half of the world's population. The level of urbanisation in India, in comparison, appears much lower. Urban India accounts for about 30 per cent of the total population and its share i s expected to rise to about 40 per cent by 2030. However, the absolute numbers tell quite a different story. At present, the urban population is about 300 million and it is expected to reach 590 million by 2030. Indian cities cannot take comfort from the U.N.'s observation that urbanisation is a positive feature and cities offer the best opportunity to escape poverty. Urban poverty, housing deficit, poor quality of city planning, and weak governance are challenges to be addressed. As of now, the list of unfinished and unattended urban agenda in India is long and daunting. By 2015, about $90 billion needs to be invested in urban infrastructure excluding metro railway projects. But what would be available, on the basis of 2004 figures and projections, is only $10 billion. The national transport policy stresses the need for large investments in public transportation and the need to establish metropolitan authorities that will integrate different modes of transport and promote sustainable options. This still remains a far cry. In spite of a national slum policy and housing policies being in place, the housing deficit in Indian cities is on the rise. In 2007, the housing shortage was about 24 million units and it is expected to touch 26 million by 2012. About 99 per cent of this deficit pertains to lower income groups. The UNFPA report identifies urban governance as the key challenge in planning for quality cities. This appears to be one of the weaker links in the Indian urban context. The Constitution, through its amendments, has devolved more powers to local bodies, but they are yet to be empowered in full. Their capacity needs to be built and financial powers strengthened before we can expect them to adopt best practices in governance. Such issues are even more pressing in smaller cities, which are expected to take most of the growing urban population. Urbanisation may be inevitable but whether it will turn into a positive force or an environmental and social disaster depends on how quickly we put plans and governance in place.

The Manas National Park in Assam has received its fourth one-horned rhino, seven years after its approximately 100-strong population was wiped out by poachers. On February 24, the one-and-a-half-year-old female rhino was released in the Kuribeel area of the Bansbari range in the park. The four rhinos, all orphaned female, rescued by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), its partner the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Assam Forest Department, were hand-raised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near the Kaziranga National Park. The first three rhinos were transferred to Manas by the WTI-IFAW in 2006. Releasing the rhinos, A.K. Swargiary, Director of the park, expressed the hope that this action would mark the beginning of the revival of the rhino population there. This would be followed by wild-to-wild transfer by the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 team. The last native rhino in the park, a female, was killed by poachers on the Kokilabari beat in 2001 after two decades of ethnic strife, which left most of the park devastated and claimed the lives of eight forest officials. Ucchila, about 5 km from Kuribeel, was considered the best habitat for the rhino and had the highest concentration of the animal. It is expected that the four female rhinos would move to this area. The young rhino which was released in Manas last week was rescued from a tea garden next to the Kaziranga National Park after its mother was shot dead by poachers in September 2007. It was transported for over 300 km to its new home. Park secure The Security Assessment Group of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020, in its update on security assessment, said 80 per cent of the Manas National Park was secure and that it was safe to release the animals there. Manas is considered one of the world's richest biodiversity hotspots, contiguous to forests of Bhutan. Home to tigers and elephants, it is also a designated Project Tiger Reserve. A repository of 22 critically endangered species, Manas was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation in 1985.