Saturday, October 30, 2010

Court penalises for causing death to ducks - Justice delivered in Canada



I am a diehard Nationalist and hate anything being said against the Nation.  In this great Country, there are conflict zones and people are getting killed.  Outside the zones, lawlessness prevails on asphalt where every human on powered vehicles tend to misbehave absolutely.  In that strip of space bewildering variety of vehicles battle for space and right of way.  There is high incidence of drunk driving, unauthorized driving, violation of traffic rules, road rage  - all leading to chaotic behaviour, accidents and loss of precious human lives and human beings becoming incapacitated. 
To recall a few, in Jan 1999 an inebriated clan of a high ranking serviceman rammed his new BMW at a high speed in a police checkpoint, killing six people, half of them policemen.  The only survivor turned hostile and the other eye witness declared unreliable by the prosecution.  Famous criminal lawyers holding the brief were reportedly caught on camera offering money to eye witness.   In Chennai, a small time cine actor returning home after a booze party rammed his car on a traffic policeman killing him.  Another bolly wood star in 2002 crashed his Landcruiser at high speed killing one and maiming four pavement dwellers.  Taking a clue from the film ‘Nayakan’ later it was claimed that the famous actor was only a passenger and somebody else was at the wheels.  Years later, a local court discharged five witness as the prosecution was not keen to examine them, the other key witeness turned hostile.   Two labourers sleeping on footpath were killed when a Mercedes driven by an inebriated person lost control.   There are some more very similar incidents – the victims being poor commoners and the offenders getting away as they are very important in the society.
In another widely reported instance,  an actor was booked for hunting endangered chinkaras and black bucks, another case involving an ex-cricketer hunting deer was also getting dragged in the court.  People came to the actor’s defence that he was so light hearted and any conviction would badly affect the cine industry which had invested crores on him – good enough reason !!  the conviction rate any way is abysmally low.
Birds do not bind themselves to Nations.  They migrate regularly traversing seas and going on long sojourns.  By English tradition, a goose denotes foolishness and responsibility.   Duck is the common name for a number of species in the family of Anatidae that includes ducks, geese and swans. 

Something different occurred in Canada.  Alberta is the most populous of the Canada’s three prairie provinces.  It is located in Western Canada, bounded by British Columbia and Saskatchewan and US State of Montana. 

Here recently, Court convicted a Company for failing to deploy scarecrows and loud cannons in April 2008 to prevent migratory birds from landing  on a tailings pond containing oily residue from one of its operations. Many companies drain their toxic waste thereby polluting neighbourhood and often spoiling potable water and clean rivers.  Water used to separate and process the oil-bearing tar in oil-sands deposits ends up in large ponds and becomes a toxic sludge.  Generally propane powered noise machines are used to make loud noises or powerful bursts of water to scare the birds away.  Fish farmers go great lengths and expend to keep fish eating birds at bay.  In those parts of the world  tethered balloons, netting and bird chasing dogs are also used to deter the  birds.
 The Court indicted Alberta stating that it was their failure  to operate noisemakers to frighten away birds. An anonymous tip eventually alerted officials that about 500 birds were in the pond and hundreds of them died.
The Company claimed that  bad weather had delayed its annual efforts to deter the birds.    They also stated that it was for the first time in  30 years that a large flock of birds had landed on a tailings pond.But evidence at the trial showed that Syncrude had been reducing the number of people and the amount of equipment it devoted to keeping birds from its tailings ponds.  They were penalized fine higher than the one prescribed under federal and provincial law.   The Judge fined Canada $3 M for the death of 1606 ducks on its tailing ponds in 2008. The penalty is the largest amount of environmental fine in the province’s history. Still the amount is a drop in the proverbial bucket for the Oil Company which deals with millions of barrels of oil per day from bitumen. 

The Company Syncrude is one of the world’s largest producer of synthetic crude oil from oil sands and the largest single source producer in Canada.   They responded that they have learned a lot from the incident whilst the Environmentalists still felt that the penalty was insufficient and it was no more than a slap on the wrist considering the size of the Company.

There are places where good sense and Justice still prevail

Regards – Sampathkumar S

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