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    December 31: News from around the Driftless Area – Swnews4u - January 3, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    News from Around the Driftless Area is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

    VIROQUA The Vernon County Board held a short special meeting on December 18. It was the last meeting for outgoing County Clerk Ron Hoff, and its purpose was to adjust the budget to pay the salary of the new county administrator. The new administrator will be Cari Redington, a former Hillsboro High School graduate with professional experience in administration and financeEach year, the National FFA Organization honors FFA members who show the utmost dedication to the organization through their desire to develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The American FFA Degree is bestowed upon a select group of students in recognition of their years of academic and professional excellence. This year 4,136 American Degrees were awarded. Morgan Woodhouse, a member of the De Soto FFA chapter, was awarded the American FFA Degree at the 93rd National FFA Convention & Expo Oct. 27-29, held virtually. Sponsored by Case IH, Elanco Animal Health and Syngenta, the award recognizes demonstrated ability and outstanding achievements in agricultural business, production, processing or service programs New members have just been welcomed onto the Vernon County Historical Society Board, and some returning members have changed to new positions. Here is the line-up for 2021: Dian Krause of Viroqua is the new president, and Denise Kirchoff of Viroqua is the new vice president. Brad Steinmetz of La Farge is continuing as secretary, and Loann Frie of Viroqua is continuing as treasurer. New directors are Brian Ekern and Carl Lindquist, both of Viroqua. Continuing directors are Leila Holen of Westby and Donna Knower of Ferryville. Thank you to all of the VCHS Board members for their hard work!

    LA FARGE At their December 14 meeting, the LaFarge Village Board learned from Public Works Manager Wayne Haugrud that the villages sewer utility lost $65,000 in 2020, and is in debt. Upon advice from the villages accounting firm, Johnson and Block, the village will implement a rate increase. Rates will be raised 25 percent, and raise rates on average for a single user by $5.04, and as much as $18.22 for a five-person family Needing some new content to watch over the coming winter months? Check out our past Driftless Dialogue videos on a wide range of topics:

    The Ralph Nuzum Lecture Series typically occurs once a month and is free thanks to a grant by the Ralph E Nuzum Kickapoo Reforestation Fund through the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley ReserveThe Viola Sportsmens Club will hold its annual New Years Day Poultry/Trap Shoot. The event is open to the public, with 10 shot Rounds, two shots from each station. Prizes will be Chicken, Ham, Pork Loin ???. Free Soup, Chili, Hotdogs, Coffee, and Hot Chocolate. They will hold a round of Annie Oakley @ 1pm. $5 entry fee with $50 prize to the winner. This will be shot from the 25 yard line. They will have a fire available to help stay warm as well.

    ONTARIO Fears of possible flooding prompted the Kendall Village Board on Monday to investigate having a beaver dam removed. But because the dam in question is near the Elroy-Sparta State Trail and Highway 71, its partly on property owned by the DOT and partly on a DNR right-of-way. That left the village board wondering if it could legally have the dam removed and the beavers trapped. Nearby homeowner Dale Haney attended the meeting, advocating for removing the dam. Other residents had requested that it be left intact, noted board president Richard Martin. In the end, Martin said he would contact a DNR representative to learn the villages scope of control over the dam structure A Warrens teenager has died in a two-vehicle crash that occurred on Highway 21 in the Town of Byron. Just after 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Monroe County 911 Communication Center received a call reporting a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Highway 21 and Crescent Road. The initial investigation found that a 2003 Honda Civic was southbound on Crescent Road when the driver failed to stop at the stop sign at Highway 21. The vehicle was struck by a 2017 Kenworth straight truck that was eastbound on Highway 21.The passenger in the Honda, a 16-year-old, died in the crash. Both drivers were evaluated for injuries and released With what continues as a popular community service, representatives from several emergency service departments participated in Shop With a Hero on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Employees from the following agencies helped children shop for gifts for Christmas: Monroe County Emergency Management, Tomah VA Fire and Police Departments, Wisconsin State Patrol, Tomah Area Ambulance Service and Tomah Fire and Tomah Police Departments.

    PRAIRIE DU CHIEN Crossing Rivers Health has received our first allocation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for our employees! We expect employee vaccination clinics to begin next week. As you may know, the first vaccine shipment will be given to healthcare workers who have frequent face-to-face contact with patients. Next, the county health departments will work with local nursing homes to coordinate vaccinations for their residents and additional healthcare workers. As far as we understand, vaccines will not be available to the general public for at least several weeks. Crossing Rivers Health Clinic is not creating a waiting list for community members who want the vaccine. We will coordinate with the public health department to make announcements when the vaccine will be offered to the public A constant, piercing sound coming from the Universal Forest Products manufacturing plant on Lessard Street in Prairie du Chien is disturbing neighbors. City Administrator Chad Abram first briefed the common council on the issue Dec. 15. He said city hall and the police department had received multiple calls from residents in the area about the 24-hour sound that, in some cases, has made it difficult for neighbors to sleep. Abram explained that the sound is coming from a new piece of equipment at the plant. It has been noticeable for about a month or so Clayton County health care workers were expected to start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations this week, according to a press release from the Clayton County Visiting Nurse Association (VNA). The Clayton County Visiting Nurse Association has placed the countys initial order for 600 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for those in priority groups identified in phase 1-A, the release stated. These doses will be targeted to health care staff with direct patient contact who are unable to telework, who provide services to patients or patients family members or who handle infectious materials. This includes those who work in inpatient care, outpatient care or community settings.

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    December 31: News from around the Driftless Area - Swnews4u

    From Segregation to Labour, Manu’s Caste Law Governs the Indian Prison System – Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting - December 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Similarly, Part 10 of the manual titled, Employment, Instructions and Control of Convicts, as also mentioned in the rules under section 59 (12) of the Prisons Act, states:

    Sweepers shall be chosen from among those who, by the custom of the district in which they reside or on account of their having adopted the profession, perform sweepers work, when free. Anyone else may also volunteer to do this work, in no case, however shall a person, who is not a professional sweeper, be compelled to do the work.

    The rule, however, remains silent over the issue of consent for those from the sweeper community.

    These rules are drafted essentially keeping the larger male population in mind and get replicated in womens prisons too, in states where women-specific rules have not been formulated. In the absence of a woman prisoner from the appropriate caste groups, the Rajasthan prison manual says, two or three specially selected male convictMehtarsmay be taken into the enclosure by a paid worker under the condition Mehtar is a caste name, denoting those engaged in manual scavenging as a caste occupation.

    On medical workers, the manual says, Two or more long- term prisoners of good caste should be trained and employed as hospital attendants.

    Across states, prison manuals and rules stipulate the labour that needs to be carried out on a daily basis. The division of labour is roughly determined on the dichotomous purity-impurityscale, with the higher castes handling only work that is considered pure and those lower in the caste grid being left to carry out the impure jobs.

    Consider the case of Bihar. The section titled Preparation of foodopens with this line: Of equal importance is the quality, proper preparation, and cooking of the food and its issue in full quantity. Further, detailing the measurements and cooking techniques in jail, the manual states: Any A class Brahmin or sufficiently high caste Hindu prisoner is eligible for appointment as a cook. The manual further specifies, Any prisoner in a jail who is so high caste that he cannot eat food cooked by the existing cooks shall be appointed a cook and made to cook for the whole complement of men. Individual convicted prisoners shall in no circumstances be allowed to cook for themselves, unless they are specific division prisoners permitted to do so under rule.

    Not just on paper

    These are not mere words printed in an official book and forgotten. The caste practice ubiquitous in the Indian subcontinent manifests in more ways than one. Several prisoners who were approached shared their experiences of being segregated and pushed into doing menial jobs purely on the basis of the caste they were born into. While Brahmins and other high caste prisoners considered their exemption to bea matter of pride and privilege, the rest had only the caste system to blame for their condition.

    The jail tells you your rightaukaad(status), says Pintu, a former prisoner, who spent close to a decade at Jubba Sahni Bhagalpur Central Jail and a few months at the Motihari Central Jail. Pintu belongs to a naior barber community, and throughout his stint in prison, he served as one.

    The Bihar prison manual too formalises caste hierarchies in labour. For instance, it says for those assigned sweeping work: Sweepers shall be chosen from the Mehtar or Hari caste, also from the Chandal or other low castes, if by the custom of the district they perform similar work when free, or from the caste if the prisoner volunteers to do the work. All three castes fall under the Scheduled Castes category.

    From time to time, prison manuals have gone through a few tweaks. Sometimes this was triggered by public outcry or the Supreme Court or a high courts intervention; sometimes the states themselves felt the need for it. In most states, though, the issue of caste-based labour practices has been overlooked.

    In some states, for instance Uttar Pradesh, religious scruples and caste prejudices are considered important for reformative influences. A separate chapter focusing on reformative influences in prison says, Reasonable respect shall be paid to religious scruples and caste prejudices of the prisoners in all matters as far as it is compatible with discipline. The prison administration holds sole discretionary power over the extent of the reasonability and compatibility of these prejudices. The reasonability, though, has only meant furthering blatant caste prejudices while assigning work and exempting some from harsh labour both in male and female prisons.

    The Madhya Pradesh Jail Manual, which was amended only a few years ago, continues with the caste-based assignment in conservancy work the official term used for manual scavenging. The chapter titled Mal Vahan or conservancy states that a Mehtar prisoner would be responsible for handling human excreta in the toilets.

    Identical practices find mention in the Haryana and Punjab state prison manuals and rules too. Selection of sweepers, barbers, cooks, hospital staff among others are all pre-decided as per ones caste identity. If any prison faces scarcity of prisoners of a certain caste to carry out the requisite labour, prisoners are to be brought in from nearby prisons. However, no exceptions or changes in rules are mentioned in the manual.

    When Sabika Abbas, a programme officer working with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a non-governmental organisation working on prisoners rights, recently visited prisons of Punjab and Haryana, she said the blatancy of the practice shocked her. Male and female prisoners alike shared their experiences of caste and caste-based labour work assigned to them. Some were compelled to carry out the work due to poverty and lack of financial support from their families. But these prisoners too were primarily from the backward caste groups, says Abbas.

    Her research, commissioned by the Legal Services Authorities of Haryana and Punjab, covers a plethora of issues plaguing the prison system. Abbas observes that even though pre-trial detainees are exempted from carrying out labour in prison, the prevailing system compels them to work. In most prisons in both states, we observed that the posts for sweepers and cleaners were lying empty for years. It was understood that those menial jobs will be carried out by prisoners belonging to lower caste groups, she observes. Unlike other state prisons thatare still following the colonial prison rules, Abbas points to the amendments in the Punjab manual. Punjab is relatively newer. It was last updated in 1996 but still did not do away with the caste-based provisions, she adds.

    West Bengal, perhaps the only state that makes special provisions for prisoners arrested in connection with political or democratic movements, continues to be just as regressive and unconstitutional as others when it comes to assigning labour according to caste. Similar to Uttar Pradesh, the West Bengal prison manual follows non- interference with religious practices or caste prejudices. Certain specific preferences are accommodated in the manual a Brahmin wearing sacred thread or a Muslim desiring a certain length of trousers. But with that, the manual also states: Food shall be cooked and carried to the cells by prisoner-cooks of suitable caste, under the superintendence of a jail officer. Likewise, Sweepers should be chosen from the Mether or Hari caste, also from the Chandal or other castes, if by the custom of the district they perform similar work when free, or from any caste if the prisoner volunteers to do the work.

    These practices have remained in the prison rule book but have gone unchallenged. Dr. Riazuddin Ahmed, a former Inspector General of Prisons in Andhra Pradesh and former director of the government-run Academy of Prisons and Correctional Administration in Vellore, says the issue of caste has never been deliberated upon while making policy decisions. In my career spanning over 34 years, the issue has never come up for discussion, he says. Ahmed feels that clauses mentioned in the manual are mostly a reflection of the states attitude towards those incarcerated. Prison officials, after all, are a product of the same caste-ridden society that exists outside. Regardless of what the manual states, it is entirely up to the prison staff to ensure dignity and equality of prisoners, Ahmed feels.

    Disha Wadekar, a Delhi-based lawyer and a vocal critic of the Indian caste system, compares prison laws with the regressive laws of Manu. A mythical figure, Manu is believed to be the author of theManusmriti,which had sanctioned the degradation of humanity on the basis of caste and gender in ancient times.

    The prison system simply replicates Manusdandniti(laws). The prison system has failed to work on the normative penal system that is built on the tenets of equality before the law and protection of law. On the contrary, it follows Manus law that is founded on the principles of injustice a system that believed that certain lives are to be punished more than others and that some lives have more value than others. The states have stuck to the ascribed caste-based understanding of justiceand decide on punishment and labour as per an individuals standing in the caste grid, explains Wadekar.

    Indian states, barring West Bengal, have borrowed from the Prisons Act, 1894. Not just borrowed but also remained stuck there, Ahmed adds. In 2016, the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) came up with an elaboratemodel prison manual. The model prison manual is aligned with international standards such as the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners (UN Bangkok Rules) and the UN Minimum Standards for Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules). Both call for the repeal of practices that discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, propounded by the United Nations in 1977, to which India is a party, has clearly stated that: No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

    No desire for change?

    Since prison is a state subject, it is entirely on the states to implement these changes suggested in the model prison manual. Acknowledging the problems in the existing prison manual of different states, the model prison manual states, Management of kitchen or cooking of food on caste or religious basis will be totally banned in prisons. Similarly, the model manual also bars any kind of special treatment to a prisoner on the basis of her caste or religion. In fact, the model prison manual lists agitating or acting on the basis of caste or religious as a punishable offence. But implementation of the model prison manual leaves much to be desired.

    It is not as if state prison departments have not struck down inhumane and unconstitutional practices from the books. Goa did, so did Delhi, Maharashtra and Odisha. They specifically stated that caste wont have any relevance in running prisons. Over the years, several inhuman practices like using fetters and whipping as a mode of punishment were done away with, so were caste-based occupations in some state prisons.

    But did that weed out the caste practice entirely? No, says Lalita*, a former prisoner. Between 2010 and 2017, Lalita faced multiple cases in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. While most of her incarceration period was spent in Byculla womens prison, she was also taken to other prisons from time to time. The travel and interactions with other prisoners and prison officials gave her the opportunity to understand the carceral system in all its complexities.

    Unlike the male prisoners, women are fewer in number and so are the provisions made available to them. Lalita was a fierce fighter in jail, demanding basic rights and dignity for herself and her co-prisoners. So, when women prisoners revolted against the prison authorities, demanding better food quality and more frequent supply of poultry and meat, Lalita was at the forefront.

    Prison rules are plenty and prisons authorities quote them each time to prevent any intervention by prisoners and their legal representatives. But these official documents are seldom accessible to common people, let alone an incarcerated individual. Nothing is more dangerous than an informed prisoner asserting her rights, says Lalita.

    Ahmed agrees with Lalita. And to explain the unavailability of the updated manual, Beluah Emmanuel, professor and a senior faculty at the Academy of Prisons and Correctional Administration in Vellore, says that on average, it takes at least 15 years for changes in the manual to reflect. Each time states introduce any change to the manual, it is merely noted at the official level. The revision to the prison manual reflects only when it is reprinted once in 15 years. Finding all amendments at one place is practically impossible, adds Emmanuel. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which has been working on prisoners rights for several decades, has been unsuccessfully trying to access updated prison manuals for a long time. Only about 10 states have prison rules/manual on the state prison websites. It is extremely difficult to access updated rules of other states. In our experience, access to prison manuals is a challenge for prisoners as well. Ideally, all prison libraries must have a copy of the prison rules, says Sugandha Shankar, a senior programme officer at CHRI.

    A sadhvi in the mix

    In Maharashtra, Lalita says, unwritten caste practice is rampant. Her stay in Byculla prison coincided with that of Pragya Singh Thakur, a prime accused in a bomb blast case of 2008 in Malegaon, a town in northern Maharashtra. Thakur, on her release in 2017, was inducted into the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and later in 2019, became an elected member of parliament from her hometown, Bhopal.

    At the time of her arrest, she was merely a self-appointed seer. That, however, did not stop her from growing her clout in prison, nor did it prevent her from influencing prison officials. Thakur was lodged in one of the three separate cells, which doubles up as both a VIP cell for the rich and influential seeking privacy, or in the case of erring prisoners, a torture or a solitary cell.

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    From Segregation to Labour, Manu's Caste Law Governs the Indian Prison System - Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

    ‘Must we grow?’ and other questions | Government | – Rappahannock News - December 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    What you want to know about the Rappahannock County comprehensive plan

    For the first time in a long time, Rappahannock County might greet the new year with a fully up-to-date comprehensive plan. Next week, the Board of Supervisors could make the long-awaited decision to approve updates to the countys guiding vision document updates that are more than a decade overdue.

    Last month after several members of the public expressed opposition to the plans maps delineating boundaries around each of the countys five villages, the supervisors agreed to remove the maps from the proposed plan and arranged to revisit the issue in a future revision.

    In preparation for the landmark vote, the Rappahannock News and Foothills Forum compiled comments from prominent county leaders and former officials to provide answers to some of our readers most pressing questions.

    What is the comprehensive plan, and what is it for?

    Virginia state code compels every local planning commission in the commonwealth to prepare a plan for the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory within its jurisdiction. By statute, the comprehensive plan is meant to be general. And as many local officials point out, it is meant only to inform present and future activity, not to establish new enforceable ordinances.

    Jurisdictions are encouraged to update their comprehensive plans at least every five years, but Rappahannock has not fully updated its plan, first written in 1973, since 2004.

    [The comprehensive plan] should be our guiding star that we look to and consult in our future decision-making processes. Its supposed to be a loose document, an overarching general plan not a zoning document. Christine Smith, Chair of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors.

    It is a protective document. What are we protecting? We are protecting Rappahannock County the way we all know and love it. Keir Whitson, Hampton District Supervisor.

    At its base the comprehensive plan is really just supposed to outline and lay out the vision of the jurisdiction, whether its a town or a county, in terms of how they see development and where they see opportunities for growth, whether that be development growth or economic growth or anything else. Patrick Mauney, Executive Director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission

    What is the relationship between the comprehensive plan and zoning?

    While there is nothing in the Virginia code that requires a governing body to adhere to its jurisdictions comprehensive plan, the plan is generally thought of as a guardrail for planners making zoning and subdivision ordinances.

    If a newly-revised comprehensive plan designates an area for industrial growth and development but it is not currently zoned for such activity, for example, then zoning and subdivision rules should be amended to align with that objective. Each time the comprehensive plan is amended, a review should follow to determine how the changes will be reflected in county policies and which governing body will have oversight.

    I always thought of [the comp plan] as the skeleton and the zoning regulations are like the flesh on the skeleton. Sharon Pierce, former Chair of the Planning Commission.

    Any time we consider a new or modified zoning ordinance (which is very specific in time and detail) we must first ask: is it supported by the comp plan? That is, does the new idea fit within the vision of the plan, the opening of the funnel? If not, it would not be supported and the idea would need to be reshaped or we would need to ask ourselves if our vision shifted. If our vision shifted, the comp plan can be modified after properly advertised public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Rick Kohler, Piedmont District Representative to the Planning Commission.

    Some residents object to the wording in Principle 4 of the comp plan, which reads: Encourage residential development within the designated village areas, infill development to be preferred; to allow for the broadest possible range of housing opportunities, styles, configurations, and affordability within the context of a rural, agricultural community.

    Why encourage and not accommodate?

    Planning Commission Chair David Konick has correctly emphasized on a number of occasions that the word encourage has been in the comprehensive plan since the 1980s.

    The term and phrase are intentionally broad. One goal of Rappahannocks comprehensive plan has been to preserve the countys rural character. To accomplish that, former (and some present) county planners have believed that Rappahannock needs to allow some higher density development in the village areas to protect against legal challenges that could argue low-density zoning is exclusionary.

    The focus of encouraging growth was from the standpoint of defending the comprehensive plan as a whole. And everything changes -- political wills change, legal statuses change but at the time the intent of that [phrase] was that the growth would occur around the villages. So accommodate is maybe a better word than encourage but encourage was there because the intent [was] to say if growth happens it should happen around the villages. I could even argue that the villages do need an amount of growth to be economic units. Sharon Pierce, former Chair of the Planning Commission.

    Can the Sperryville sewer accommodate growth, and if so, how much?

    The short answer? No one really knows.

    Water and sewer services allow for higher commercial and residential density than private septic systems, but their purpose is not to designate village boundaries. Sperryvilles sewer system was built in the late 1980s to respond to state and federal environmental clean water protection mandates that prohibited the dumping of waste into the Thornton River. (Similarly, the Town of Washington put in its sewer lines in 2010 largely to protect the Rush River watershed.)

    The Sperryville sewage permit is specified to an amount of effluent, not a number of households. The plant was built to process 55,000 gallons of wastewater per day. Currently, the sewer serves roughly 180 connections that produce notably less effluent than the maximum allowed by the permit.

    The authority has engaged a Luray-based firm, Racey Engineering and Surveying, to analyze the sewers true capacity.

    It would be better for the authority and the system to have more users helping to share the burden of the cost. It is a source of revenue so a reason we might want more users is not necessarily because were promoting growth, but if it is in our legitimate service area it would be nice if we could get that additional revenue. Alex Sharp, Chair of the Rappahannock County Water and Sewer Authority

    Why were the comp plan maps removed?

    At an October public hearing to discuss the comprehensive plan, Board Chair Christine Smith observed that the maps seem to have taken on a life where they are seen as encouraging and including more growth.

    The village area maps were intended to improve upon the aerial photographs that were previously included in the 2004 comprehensive plan, but the proposed maps met with unexpected resistance from county residents and even the Piedmont Environmental Council.

    Patrick Mauney, executive director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, told the Rappahannock News that the maps had been devised by superimposing the countys zoning maps onto digital maps of the villages. The initial maps were just village boundaries with no designation of what the zoning was, he said. And the regional commission drew those boundaries, Mauney continued, based on where parcels naturally seemed to have fence lines and tree lines.

    Nonetheless, the myriad objections to the maps included fears that development and growth might increase traffic dangers; burden Sperryvilles sewer system; tarnish the rural charm of the historic villages; and burden the villages with unwelcome sprawl.

    Chris Parrish, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, put it succinctly during a November session: I have yet to talk to anybody personally that is in favor of the maps.

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    'Must we grow?' and other questions | Government | - Rappahannock News

    Why in-person instruction can mean the world – Newsday - December 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    This week's top stories1. Parents of special needs students: Kids need to be in school

    For children with special needs, a celebratory rub on the back or high-five can mean the world. In the age of COVID-19, those physical acts of reassurance happen less often, with school restrictions on social distancing and the stress of spreading the virus hanging in the air. But Long Island parents and instructors say having special needs students back in school, either full time or hybrid, is better than keeping them at home.

    "We've always had our challenges. Now they're exacerbated to the ninth degree," said Tricia Desiderio, vice president of the Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators. The school environment is "less interactive," there's greater spacing between desks, and group-activity tables have disappeared, Desiderio said. Special needs educators across the Island said they saw numerous students' abilities both physically and academically diminish.

    Schools are more than a place to learn math and science for kids with special needs they host a spectrum of services, including counseling, and physical, occupational and speech therapy, educators said. Special needs students thrive on the structure, routine and expertise in schools. When a student regresses in school, they're not necessarily forgetting some fractions, but they're losing life skills that help them be more independent and communicate with others, educators said.

    Melissa Clark, of West Babylon, said it was difficult doing speech therapy with her daughter, Brianna, who has autism, during the months of remote learning in the spring. She said her daughter lost some of her ability to speak in the time. She noticed the remote therapy sessions really didn't offer more than 15 minutes of instruction before Brianna's attention drifted elsewhere.

    Read the full story.

    The Wyandanch school district plans to end the use of failing cesspools at two schools and hook up to the Southwest Sewer District under proposed legislation that would waive county sewer hookup fees for schools under a state fiscal monitor.

    The pandemic has changed education on Long Island. Find out how.

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    Read the full story.

    Suffolk Countys planned seizure of the former Dowling College campus in Oakdale is on hold after the propertys owner paid more than $2 million in back taxes, officials said.

    Read the full story.

    Danielle Grey-Stewart, a Hicksville native who grew up enamored with science and how it shapes the world around her, was selected for the 2021 Rhodes scholarship program, one of just 32 recipients in the United States to receive the prestigious distinction.

    Read the full story.

    An Oceanside High School sophomore recently collected 30 boxes worth of donated art supplies for use by children in local hospitals. In lieu of a "Sweet 16," Autum Blois held one of her biggest art supply drive-by collections last month at her family's home, where about 700 boxes of crayons were dropped off by residents, said Maureen, her mother. She called this collection, "Autum's Colors."

    Autum, who is on the autism spectrum, previously has held donation drives to benefit local hospitals, including Mount Sinai South Nassau and NYU Winthrop. Of Autum's passion for art, Maureen said: "She never leaves our house without some sort of drawing material."

    Have questions? Send them to Newsdays education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.

    Are children safe from COVID-19 in school?

    Medical experts say "yes" for the most part, but warn against gatherings outside of school, where the virus is spreading among children and adults. School buildings were shut for months at the start of the pandemic, though medical experts now believe children are less likely to be infected with the virus in an education setting where they are wearing masks, keeping their distance and cleaning protocols are followed.

    "Schools have done tremendous work to try and make the learning environment very safe," said Dr. James Schneider, chief of pediatric critical care medicine at Cohen Childrens Medical Center in New Hyde Park. On the other hand, organizing parties and gatherings at home and in the community with 20 or 30 people children and adults is "absolutely irresponsible."

    He added, "We know for sure that is how [COVID-19] is spreading."

    Even though many children do not fall seriously ill, its a mistake to underestimate the impact of COVID-19 on children, as some people have done, said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Childrens Hospital.

    "I think the first thing to remind them is that more children have died of COVID-19 this year than have died of flu in the past," Nachman said. "So when people dont think these illness affect children, the answer is, They do. "

    Find the latest education news at Catherine Carrera can be reached at or on Twitter @CattCarrera.

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    Why in-person instruction can mean the world - Newsday

    Breathing new life into Yamuna – The New Indian Express - December 10, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Express News Service

    Despite a massive redevelopment work before the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Jamnapaar or Yamuna paar continues to be looked down upon, thanks to the rising content of ammonia in the river and the nauseating stench that emanates from it. Residents of the adjacent areas lament or being tagged as the poor cousins of the more opulent south Delhi.

    To change this image, the AAP government has initiated a mega project with an aim to reduce the pollution load in the Yamuna by 90 per cent by March 2023. Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials recently presented a detailed plan to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and water minister Satyendar Jain in this regard. It has already laid out a comprehensive roadmap for the project.

    The Yamuna, which serves for around 70 per cent of Delhis water and is often described as the lifeline for Delhiites, is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, especially around the national capital, due to high density of population and rapid industrialisation.

    While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre seeks to Clean Ganga by 2020 under the project Namami Gange, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government aims to restore the Yamuna to its earlier glory under the new initiative, officials said. Keeping that in mind, the Yamuna Cleaning Action Plan of the Delhi government was drawn up.

    Its main components are up-gradation of sewage treatment plants (STP), connecting every household to the sewage system and in-situ treatment of untreated water. These interventions by the government will be on a policy level and technical infrastructure on the ground will be augmented corresponding to these decisions to clean the sacred river.

    Sewage connectionAccording to the DJB, one of the major pollutants of the river is household sewage flowing directly into the river. Therefore, the first step of the plan to is to connect every house in unauthorised colonies with the sewerage system so that no untreated water laden with waste enters the river. A major challenge before the government in the entire project is to cover 1,250 unauthorised colonies, out of the total of 1,800, with the citys sewer system as they were haphazardly developed without any government supervision, while human waste is accumulated in septic tanks and stormwater drains.

    The human waste flowing into the waters has serious consequences in the terms of hygiene and could potentially lead to a disease outbreak. For this, the government has been trying to encourage the residents living in these colonies, slums and JJ clusters to get sewer connections on their own through various schemes.

    There are 550 such colonies where sewage connection is available, but people did not get a connection to the system. Now, the government has decided that every new house constructed will have a sewer connection free of cost. Through these connections, the government would ensure that all the filth generated in the waters can be tracked and the specific intervention required to treat the problem can be done inthe future.

    Revamping STPsThe second major step is to set up more STPs and upgrade the existing ones to treat all the sewage generated by the city before it enters the river. The Delhi government has a total of 35 functional treatment plants with which treat almost 520 million gallons of wastewater per day.The plan is to increase the figure exponentially in the next year. Delhi is also taking the help of Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP) to treat any untreated water flowing in the city outside of this STP network. A way for the technical experts to gauge the quality of water is Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).

    This term is used to differentiate between treated and untreated water as per the existing norms 10 is the standard for clean water. Currently, the Yamuna has an overall BOD of 70, which the government hopes to bring down considerably in the next three years to 10.

    Treatment of drain waterIn-situ treatment of water is a key technical intervention being made by the DJB in the drains of filth flowing into the river.For this, a pilot project was started in 2017 and after its success, this is now seen as a low-cost effective measure to clean water. In the first phase, this technology will be implemented in two drains from Haryana.

    Through the Badshahpur drain and drain number 6, a total of 450 million gallons per day (MGD) of untreated wastewater enters into the Najafgarh drain and ultimately, into the river. The government plan involves the use of dual technology of Enhanced Aeration of water and natural floating wetlands.

    Water is dirty when the level of oxygen goes down, so enhanced aeration will help in re-oxygenating of the drain water while it is flowing. Similarly, the floating treatment wetlands will add healthy microbes to the water before it enters the river. The work is in progress, tenders have been floated to hire a consultant to do the task. This method is effective, says Ankit Srivastava, technical advisor of the DJB.

    There are five major outfalls carrying wastewater into the Yamuna Najafgarh, Shahdara, Barapulla, Delhi Gate, Mori Gate drains. The Najafgarh and Shahdara drains, besides Delhis wastewater, receive polluted water from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The Najafgarh drain, which is a river Sahibi originating from Alwar in Rajasthan, is the biggest opening releasing 450 MGD of water into the Yamuna, out of which 50 MGD is untreated and the remaining is partially treated.

    The Shahdara drain releases 90 MGD of water, out of which 40 is untreated, while the Barapulla drains entire 40 MGD untreated water is released into the river. Two smaller drains the Mori Gate and the Delhi Gate in Old City area release 10 MGD and 8 MGD respectively into the river. Another drain in Sonia Vihar also releases 5 MGD.

    The Yamuna from its origin at Yamunotri to Okhla barrage is called the Upper Yamuna where the Delhi government plans to add treated water from the STPs in the future in the Palla area to increase the flow of treated water in the river downstream. There are tales of Lord Krishnas childhood scattered around the length of the river Yamuna. While we acknowledge its sanctity, we have collectively accepted it in its present polluted form.

    The DJB is going to use various innovative approaches to clean the sacred river. For drains, in-situ treatment using natural wetlands and aeration methods will be used. The augmentation of the existing STPs capacity will be done. The DJB has taken it upon itself to clean the river with a strict timeline in mind and within the bodys existing budget by December 31, 2023, says Water Minister Satyendar Jain. Jain, who is also an architect, has also suggested designs in many STPs and the drain system to clean the river, officials say.

    It was a conscious decision on the part of Kejriwal, to allot all the relevant departments water, flood and irrigation and urban development to Jain so that the work does not get delayed in the usual tussle between the departments. In addition to the Yamuna cleaning, the government also has planned out the ways to recharge the soon depleting groundwater table of the city that would help the government provide the 24x7 water supply, as promised by Kejriwal in the AAPs last election manifesto.

    The plan is to use treated 436 MGD of water from STPs in water bodies, lakes, irrigation, gardening, forests and other horticulture purposes.Currently, STPs treat around 525 MGD of water out of which, only 90 MGD is used and the rest goes back into the river. Using innovative modern technology, the government also is cleaning large and small lakes in the capital and filling them up with treated water from STPs. According to the officials, the government has also talked to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and has been permitted to clean large lakes.

    However, according to Manoj Mishra the convenor of a group of environmental activists called Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan until the Delhi government finds a solution for the flow of the river, nothing will revive. The right roadmap for the revival of Yamuna was laid down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2015. The Delhi government had that plan too.

    What has it been doing for the last five years? Why is it still talking about three more years? The current reality is that the Yamuna in Delhi does not flow. What is the governments plan to change that? Because all other revival plans will fail if the current condition is not changed. These plans sound more like election propaganda for the next few years, says Mishra. Currently, a total of 874 tons of pollutants per day flow directly into the Yamuna in Delhi.

    Govt looks to reduce pollution load up to 90% by March 2023On November 18, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the DJB will reduce the pollution load being discharged into the Yamuna river by 90 per cent by March 2023. Major steps to execute this plan include treating around 150 MGD of polluted water coming from Haryana and UP using natural wetlands, aeration methods and will increase the treatment of water to 400 MGD. There arefive major outfalls carrying wastewater into the Yamuna, including Najafgarh drain, Shahdara drain, Barapullahdrain, Delhi Gate drain andMori Gate drain

    Agencies asked to ensure sewagetreatmentThe CPCB on Sunday expressed concern over the growing pollution and frothing in Yamuna and asked the agencies concerned in Delhi, Haryana and UP to ensure no sewage is discharged into the river. The apex pollution watchdog directed agencies concerned to submit action taken report by December 15. In a statement, the CPCB said the quality of the river was becoming toxic with high ammonia levels due to discharge of untreated waste in it and directed the DJB to take time bound action and ensure no sewage is discharged into the river

    Phase 1By December 2021, pollution load will be 709 temperature-programmed desorption (TPD). The current TPD is 874

    Phase 2By March 2022, pollution load in the Yamuna will be 128 TPD

    Phase 3By December 2023, pollution load in the Yamuna will be reduced to 54 TPD

    Aiming to revive citys lifeline, DJB will upgrade sewage treatment plants, connect households in unauthorised colonies to sewage system and conduct in-situ treatment of untreated water, reports Siddhanta Mishra

    Continued here:
    Breathing new life into Yamuna - The New Indian Express

    Dayton working to keep water clean | Local News | – The Sheridan Press - December 4, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    DAYTON A plan in the works since April reaffirms the town of Daytons commitment to providing quality water to its citizens and outlines practical ways to do that.

    Michelle Christopher, source water protection specialist with the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems, has been partnering with the town to develop a Source Water Protection Plan. The plan outlines how the town will maintain the quality of its drinking water as it continues to develop and grow.

    Maintaining the quality of water will maintain quality of life in Dayton, Christopher said. Protecting that resource becomes more and more important as development comes in and the town continues to expand.

    Christopher was approached earlier this year by Daytons water and sewer operator Lorren Lane to work on the plan, which is provided free to all communities that request it.

    I just thought it was really good to have it as a resource, Lane said. Its a good way to keep an eye on our water. It just shows that we care about the quality of our water. I think it can be hard to care about water quality as a landowner if you dont sense that the town has the same priorities. So this is a way to get those priorities down in black and white.

    Christopher helps anywhere from three to five Wyoming communities develop water protection plans each year, but Dayton proved to be more challenging than most because of its unique water resource structure. The town has two water sources a well, which pumps in groundwater from the Madison Aquifer, and surface water from the Tongue River.

    Dayton was a challenge because its a two-source system, Christopher said. So I was completing a surface water plan and a groundwater plan at the same time. It was like writing two plans at once. But the nice thing for the town is that, if something happens to the well, they still have the surface water from the Tongue River and vice versa. They are really set up well if something unexpected happens.

    When drafting a water protection plan, Christopher considers a variety of ways to improve the water quality. These solutions usually involve working with those who share the water source including the county, forest service and adjoining land owners.

    We start by asking whats going on in this landscape that could affect source water quality, Christopher said. We cant stop development, and we cant stop industry. But, sometimes, even small changes to how you develop a parcel of land or permit septic systems can have major impacts on water quality.

    Daytons hundred-page draft plan has two major suggestions for how to improve water quality, Christopher said. The first is working with the U.S. Forest Service to designate the Upper Tongue River Watershed as a municipal watershed. This would require the forest service to make clean drinking water a priority when making management decisions involving the Tongue River.

    The second suggestion involves working with the county planning and zoning board to ensure septic permitting in the town does not have an impact on the drinking water sources, Christopher said.

    The draft source water protection plan is currently being reviewed by Dayton Town Council. Once the council makes their edits to the document, Christopher will hold a public meeting to inform community members about the plan and how it could affect landowners in the area.

    I dont know what that will look like or when it will happen, Christopher said. The way things have been going, we may just hold a Zoom meeting where we hang out in our pajamas and talk about source water quality. But we definitely want to hear from the community and all the stakeholders. After that, we can hopefully adopt it.

    See the original post:
    Dayton working to keep water clean | Local News | - The Sheridan Press

    Scheme launched to mechanise sewer, septic tank cleaning Ops in 243 cities by Apr 30 – The Tribune India - November 21, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    New Delhi, November 19

    Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday launched Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge across 243 cities in the country, a move that aims to mechanise all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by April 30 next year.

    Addressing a webinar on World Toilet Day, Puri said the challenge is to ensure that no life of any sewer or septic tank cleaner is ever lost again owing to the issue of hazardous cleaning.

    The minister, according to a statement, said this is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modis vision, who has always placed the safety and dignity of sanitation workers at the core of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U).

    The virtual event saw the chief secretaries, state mission directors and other senior state and union territories coming together to take a pledge on behalf of 243 cities to mechanise all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by April 30, 2021, and gave their commitment to work towards preventing any deaths from hazardous entry, it said.

    The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (2013) and various judgements of Honble Supreme Court expressly prohibit hazardous cleaning, i.e. manual entry into a septic tank or sewer without protective gear and observing operating procedures, the statement quoted Puri as saying at the event.

    He said despite this, recurring episodes of human fatalities among those engaged in cleaning of septic tanks and sewers, typically belonging to the economically disadvantaged and marginalised communities of society, continue to be an issue of concern.

    The minister also highlighted that the success of the challenge does not only depend on the intent and commitment of political representatives, bureaucrats or municipal authorities but also on the citizens of the country.

    Just like citizens have taken complete ownership of the Swachhata of their cities, their involvement in this endeavor is absolutely crucial, Puri said, and appealed to people to be vigilant and responsible and play their part in saving the lives of the Sanitation or Swachhata Commandos.

    Union Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra said the challenge will focus extensively on creating citizen awareness on this critical issue along with infrastructure creation for mechanised cleaning and capacity building of workforce.

    The ministry said that since its launch in 2014, SBM-U has made significant progress in the area of both sanitation and solid waste management.

    As many as 4,337 Urban local bodies (ULBs) have been declared open defecation free (ODF) (except 35 ULBs of West Bengal), it said.

    Besides, over 62 lakhs individual household toilets and over 5.9 lakhs community/ public toilets have been constructed. Additionally, over 59,900 toilets across 2900 plus cities have been made live on Google Maps, it added.

    In the area of solid waste management, 97 per cent of wards have 100 per cent door-to-door collection while 67 per cent of the total waste generated is being processed, the ministry said. PTI

    Read the rest here:
    Scheme launched to mechanise sewer, septic tank cleaning Ops in 243 cities by Apr 30 - The Tribune India

    Dennis to study impact of treated wastewater on Swan Pond River – Cape Cod Times - November 21, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Christine Legere| Cape Cod Times

    SOUTH DENNIS The Dennis Select Board will hire an independent consultant to study the possible impacts of releasing cleaned water from the proposed regional wastewater treatment plant into Swan Pond River.

    Under a regional plan being developed for Dennis, Yarmouth and parts of Harwich, wastewater from the three towns would be treated at a single plant proposed for the Department of Public Works property in South Dennis.

    Once the water has been treated, the cleaned water will be discharged at various locations in the three towns. Initially, about 300,000 gallons per day will be discharged to land at the Dennis treatment plant site and 2 million gallons per day will be piped to the Bass River Golf Course in Yarmouth and used for irrigation.

    The Dennis treatment plant will be located in the Swan Pond River watershed, so the recharged effluent released there will eventually reach the groundwater and flow down through the river into Nantucket Sound.

    Based on the water quality studies of the region, the wastewater treatment system is expected to go a long way toward cleaning up the impaired watersheds in the three towns by eliminating the current single onsite septic systems that have been loading nitrogen into the estuaries.

    Voters in all three towns will be asked to approve a DHY Clean Waters Community Partnership at next springs annual town meetings, allowing the project to move forward.

    Dennis Finance Committee Chairman James Plath recently suggested to the Select Board that an independent study be conducted before thetown meeting.

    If the Finance Committee is going to make a recommendation, we want some assurance there will be no impact on the Swan Pond River, Plath said. I dont want to be sitting at town meeting with these questions.

    Plath said he meant no disrespect to the towns Wastewater Implementation Committee or to engineers at CDM Smith who produced the preliminary design for the system.

    Plath just wanted an independent study: take the players out of it, he said.

    Select Board member Paul McCormick, who has served on the regional study committee that looked at wastewater solutions, supported Plaths proposal.

    We can use the study as part of the publicity to inform townspeople, McCormick said. Wastewater treatment is very expensive. Its important to educate the townspeople so they have their questions answered before we get to town meeting.

    Member Christopher Lambton called the decision for a study a no-brainer.

    Its a great way to reinforce to our public that were doing our due diligence to show that investing in wastewater (treatment) is the right thing to do, he said.

    A subcommittee that includes Select Board members McCormick and John Terrio and Finance Committee members Peter McDowelland Robert Prall will work with the town administration on a request for proposals for thestudy and bring it to the boardfor approval.

    The DHY Cleanwaters Community Partnerships sewer network and shared treatment system will save each town millions of dollars.

    Sharing a treatment plant would save the towns a combined $83 million in capital costs along with an estimated $6 million in annual operating costs.

    The project will be built in eight phases, each about five years long.

    Christine Legere can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.

    Read the original here:
    Dennis to study impact of treated wastewater on Swan Pond River - Cape Cod Times

    Three-pronged Approach to Protecting Water Resources – Storm Water Solutions - November 21, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    When thinking about conserving and keeping our limited freshwater supplies safe, three types of solutions spring to mind. Street sweepers, winter maintenance equipment and sewer cleaning tanker trucks are all good solutions.

    Why not use all three to turn good into extraordinary?

    Street sweepers fall into two major categories, compact sweepers and truck-mounted sweepers. Both are the best at keeping the streets clean and preventing freshwater supply pollution.

    The compact sweepers's primary advantage is maximum maneuverability that ensures perfect directional stability and safety for everyday work while also safe for city dwellers. Compacts's agility shines through in municipal streets, bike lanes and even sidewalks. Advantages are narrow design, more economical to operate, diesel fuel options (and electric) and quieter operation. The reduced noise emissions make compacts ideal for mixed-use business and residential areas and much appreciated by neighbors. More and more electric street sweepers are coming onto the market, providing environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuel units.

    Heavy-duty truck-mounted sweepers made for broad surfaces consist of three different sweeping technologies.

    Mechanical street sweepers

    Designed in the Industrial Revolution, mechanical street sweepers predate the automobile.Today, municipalities will often hire contractors to take care of heavy road construction material, such as broken pavement, chunks of asphalt, concrete millings, mud and various construction debris. Mechanical sweepers use a series of brushes to sweep debris into a hopper. The sweepers then dump the waste into a dumpster or dump truck bed.

    Regenerative air provides cost-effective, efficient road sweeping. Regenerative air circulation allows for large forward-facing digger gutter brooms and a full-width suction to maximize sweeping speed. Combined with ergonomic operator controls and low running costs, regenerative air sweepers provide an ideal solution to airports, long low cambered roads and urban environments.

    Vacuum sweepers are suited for catch basin cleaning, general street sweeping and porous pavement. The suction mechanism will suck the debris into the hopper container for disposal.

    Truck-mounted sweepers come in a wide range of dependably configured options from single-engine hydrostatic truck-mounted sweepers to twin-engine sweepers.

    Like the compact sweepers, truck-mounted sweeper manufacturers are also introducing electric powered zero-emission machines.

    Street sweepers' role in our ecosystem is much more than to keep things clean. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the PM-10 standard. PM-10 regulates the number of particles in the air 10 microns (.0004 inches) or smaller. Why that small? Because the particles are small enough to reach our lungs's lower regions. So the PM-10 street sweeper removal standards protect not only our streets but also our lungs.

    Sweepers pick up chemicals, construction debris, dirt, motor oil, trash, and other contaminants, but they do so much more. When street sweepers remove potentially harmful substances from construction sites, parking lots, roadways, and other paved surfaces before they go down storm drains, they are less likely to end up in our lakes, rivers and other freshwater sources.

    The MS4 study found street sweepers far more effective and cost-effective than all other best management practices (BMPs) against water pollutions. BMPs are structural, vegetative or managerial practices used to treat, prevent or reduce water pollution BMPs for stormwater runoff pollutant removal.

    The study looked at the cost per pound for separation and recovery in regards to Total Nitrogen (TN), Total Phosphorus (TP), and Particulate Matter (PM).

    Cleaning via street sweeping came in at the lowest cost. The cost per pound for TN? $189. TP? $294. PM? $0.11, the most economical choice.

    The next least expensive alternative? Catch basin cleaning, which vacuum compact and truck-mounted street sweepers can accomplish via a power boom hose. Catch basin cleaning comes in at $1,016 cost per pound for TN. $1,656 for TP, and $0.70 for PM. In comparison, BMP Treatment Trains come in at $1,068 per pound for TN, a whopping $37,243 for TP, and $29.70 for PM.


    Northern areas in the U.S. and Canada depend on snow removal and treatment via snow plows and spreaders. Municipalities, contractors and airports rely on customer-orientated solutions for efficient and environment-friendly winter maintenance.

    In some lighter snow/high temperate areas, street sweepers are used even in the winter to clean the salt or brine off streets depending on the snow removal technology deployed. Not all areas of the country need a snowplow or spreader.

    So what happens if the threat to freshwater is an unseen enemy?

    Unseen is usually the case with clogged sewer lines or catch basins. Unfortunately, sewer problems are not un-smelled. Likewise, when residents call their municipalities for help, usually a stinky situation or backup into their homes is an emergency.

    One use of flexible sewer cleaning units is as a first responder type of tool. These vehicles are especially useful to get in tight and densely populated metro areas as they have a smaller footprint than a recycling or supersucker truck. Combo units are powerful preventive cleaning, emergency cleaning of mains, septic and collection tanks and transport of dangerous goods.

    The advantage is the low maintenance costs, increased capabilities, low noise levels and high quality.If you need even a smaller approach, a remote or easement reel is perfect for jetting in parking decks, inside buildings and to navigate stairs with its mini-tank like treads.

    Recycler sewer cleaning trucks equipped with fully automatic water filtration systems clean the toughest blockages, even the dreaded fatbergs. The advantage of sewer cleaner tankers is that they automatically and continuously separate water from the sludge to use the cleaned water to clean the sewer. This technology is not just right for the environment for the water recycling aspect, but the longer job-site time means less fuel used. Additionally, compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled trucks provide a cleaner working experience. It is also healthy for the bottom line and the sewer cleaner operator.

    The benefits of using street sweepers, winter maintenance equipment and sewer cleaning tanker trucks in unison is a smart offense in protecting and conserving freshwater.

    I ask again, could this three-pronged approach help your DOT, municipality, or contracting business save your freshwater supplies? Some food for thought.

    Three-pronged Approach to Protecting Water Resources - Storm Water Solutions

    The friendly robot and the future of work – The Indian Express - November 21, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    November 20, 2020 5:54:33 pm

    Written byN Dayasindhu

    In one of the most unforgettable scenes of the Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005, surgical robots dramatically transform Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, one of most identifiable characters in Hollywood movies. Robotic surgery has been around since the mid-1980s, when Arthrobot helped surgeons perform orthopaedic surgical procedures. The space connection is not all imagination. The AESOP robot was funded by NASA to work as a robotic arm in space but soon became a pioneer as a camera for laparoscopic procedures in the mid-1990s. ZEUS, another robotic surgical aid, was used in a beating heart coronary artery bypass graft in the late 1990s. Today, robotic surgical aids are used across the world.

    General-purpose robots are making their mark in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stretched our healthcare sector to its limits. Mitra, a friendly Indian robot, helps COVID-19 patients make video calls with their families using its camera and a video screen on its torso. Mitra can move on its own from the bedside of one patient to another. Another robot from Milagrow, a Gurgaon-based firm, is cleaning and disinfecting hospitals. These robots are doing their part in assisting our healthcare heroes and reducing their exposure to COVID-positive patients. Both patients and healthcare heroes appear to have formed a bond with the machines. Many patients who have seen these robots in action dont leave the hospital without a selfie.

    This brings us to the important question: Will robots replace Indians at work? The answer lies in how we plan to use robots. One approach that Indian policymakers should consider is to encourage use of robots that assist us in making our jobs more productive, rather than focus on robots that are likely to entirely replace us at work. The real possibility of robots replacing humans has been highlighted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as well. In a 2016 report, it indicated that while robots threaten up to two-thirds of jobs developing countries, robots will also open up new opportunities for work. Let us also not forget the externalities in play. Sometime in the near future, robots can reduce the labour costs in manufacturing to such an extent that factories are likely to be re-shored from their current offshore low-labour cost locations.

    However, there are application domains where we will want robots to entirely replace us as soon as possible. One of them is manual scavenging. A team from IIT Madras has developed a Sepoy Septic Tank Robot, which uses high-velocity cutters to cut through the sludge in septic tanks and a vacuum pump to suck it out. This Indian robot comes at fraction of the price of a similar imported robot. A couple of years ago, Bandicoot, a scavenging robot, was piloted to clean the sewers in Thiruvananthapuram. According to a 2018 report by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, one life is lost in about every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country. Manual scavenging has to end in India and robots can play an important role in rooting this practice out. Like India, other countries are also making their assessments of robots and their use.

    Labour-rich countries like China have been working on a policy for robots for almost a decade. Their Ministry of Industry and Information Technology came up with a report Guidance on the Promotion and Development of the Robot Industry. The Made in China 2025 programme set a goal of producing 1,00,000 industrial robots per year and achieving a density of 150 robots per 10,000 workers by 2020 from about 97 in 2017. There is also a definite possibility of inducting robots in the military. Earlier this year, the head of Russias Advanced Research Foundation indicated that humans in the military will be gradually replaced by robots who can act faster, more accurately and more selectively than humans. These international developments provide yet another context for India to fine-tune its policy on robots.

    We need to assess the benefits and risks of robots in different sectors of the economy. India has been proactive in identifying priority sectors like healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility where artificial intelligence, including robotics, will make a positive difference to India. Multiple government organisations like NITI Aayog, office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government of India, the Prime Ministers Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Science and Technology are working on refining the Indian policy on artificial intelligence and robotics. The economic potential of using artificial intelligence seems impressive, with NITI Aayog forecasting that artificial intelligence is likely to add about $1 trillion to the Indian economy by 2035. While Indian policymakers have been at work, the Indian robotics startup ecosystem has also been busy.

    All the Indian robots mentioned so far are from startups or translational research initiatives in our universities. Cruchbase indicates suggest that there are close to about 400 robot startups in India. The top robotics startups have raised about $200 million in venture funding. It is impressive that our robot companies are solving problems that are common for India and many other parts of the world. Plansys, an IIT Madras alumni and faculty startup, provides submersible robotic inspection and survey solutions using remotely operated vehicles. Apart from underwater inspection of marine structures, Plansyss services also impact the largest sector of the Indian economy agriculture. Proper functioning of dams is critical to the livelihoods of many Indian farmers. Plansys provides underwater assessment of dam gates. This is critical for early assessment of preventive work to ensure the proper functioning of dams. Inspection by submersible robots is sometimes the only effective solution since reservoirs can be too turbid for effective human diver inspection. Many a time, human diver inspection is dangerous since the reservoirs are home to crocodiles. While the Indian robotics startup ecosystem has made a good start, we still have a long journey ahead of us.

    There is optimism about the future of robots in India and Im waiting for the day where job postings will include the phrase should be comfortable working with our friendly robots. We need to refine and implement an Indian policy on robots as well as to nurture a larger and more vibrant startup ecosystem to build indigenous robots. If robots still feel alien for some of us, let me leave you with a quote from Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene, We are survival machines robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.

    The writer is co-founder and CEO of Itihaasa Research and Digital. Views are personal

    The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

    For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App.

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    The friendly robot and the future of work - The Indian Express

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