Big cities and towns are seeing a spurt in restaurants and shops selling all forms of organic products but the story of the livelihood of small farmers remains bleak (‘Organic universe’, July 16-31, 2012).
From personal experience of working with marginal farmers to promote agro-ecological practices in farming, I can say that there is no market incentive for farmers living far away from cities to take up sustainable farming. Even those who live near cities are unable to access supply channels to organic stores. Unless helped by non-profits, small farmers do not have the resources to transport their produce to the market.
If “organic revolution” is to really make a difference to farmers, significant support by the state governments is essential in the form of aid for inputs like seeds, labour, micro-irrigation, storage options and well organised market links. In the absence of a support system, “organic revolution” will become yet another example of environmental elitism.
Wildlife tourism is fast becoming a rage across the globe and India is no exception (‘Tiger reserved’, July 16-31, 2012). However, it is imperative to ensure that the booming tourism does not harm wildlife habitat, particularly that of the big cat.
The recent decision by the Supreme Court to ban all tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves and asking the states to issue this notification under the Wildlife (Protection) Act is a step in the right direction. The court order came in response to a public interest petition claiming that tourism activities were putting pressure on crucial tiger habitats.
Similarly, the directive by the apex court to the state governments to follow the guidelines recommended by the National Tiger Conservation Authority is welcome.
The directive is meant to minimise harm to the big cats while promoting tiger tourism. I hope that every state adheres to the regulations scrupulously so that tourists enjoy their time in the sanctuaries without hurting the environment and animals.
K R Srinivasan
In the Rio conference, attempts were made to shift attention from sustainable development to green economy (Future compromised, July 1-15, 2012). Green economy would imply huge market for products and technologies from the developed to the developing world without weighing local factors. It aims to improve economy through poverty eradication along with sustainable development. However, there is a need to understand how these two concepts can be integrated. It is essential to develop a green economy keeping in mind the original concept of sustainable development coupled with natural capital accounting.
The cover story may have expressed disappointment over the Rio+20 conference, but the event has brought about the much-needed awareness among the participating countries.
The ongoing green movement in various countries could play an important role in realising environmental goals. Industrial growth based on green practices can act as an important tool for sustainable development. Australia introduced carbon tax last month and is proposing a bail out to protect jobs and help 50 industries switch to low-carbon energy supplies within two years.
Choosing Death Over Life
The article, “Keeping cancer alive’’ (July 1-15, 2012), is the apt description for the sordid tale of cancer not only in the state of Punjab but in the whole country. Instead of providing adequate treatment facilities to combat the disease, the administration is busy generating revenue from the manufacture and sale of cancer drugs. It has been long established that cigarettes, khaini and all forms of tobacco products are a leading cause of cancer.
But the government has not taken any serious action to control the sale and consumption of these items. Nothing has been done to curb the use of a number of cancer-causing pesticides and the use of toxic chemicals for ripening and colouring fruits and vegetables, either. As many as five Union ministries are responsible for keeping a check on these harmful chemicals, but none has taken the initiative to tackle the problem.
L R Sharma
The major focus of the breeders in countries mentioned in the article “The loss of our breeds” (July 15, 2012) is to rear cattle for beef production. In India, that is not the case. We were using bulls for ploughing and carrying farm loads till a few years back, and we rear cows for milk. The breeds that are good for beef may not be good for milk production. This is the main reason behind replacement of indigenous breeds with Holsteins or Jerseys. I agree that some breeds like Gir and Sindhi could give good yields of milk but most Indian breeds lack in this aspect. We need to protect our biodiversity and breeds, but the protection plan should be economically viable.
Too much of government’s time and money is being wasted on river interlinking projects (‘Grand distraction called river interlinking’, March 1-31, 2012). It is not prudent to meddle with Nature. By interlinking rivers, we may be altering the very composition of the waters that flow in various parts of the country, disturbing the unique plant and animal balance along the river banks. Worse, human and livestock diseases may easily spread from one part of the country to another through water because of inter-linked rivers. The damage to the marine life when these mixed waters flow into the ocean is another story.
Rivers are living systems created by joining of thousands of tributaries. Roots of vegetation along the banks of these tributaries absorb rainwater and keep rivers running. When this vegetation is cleared, rainwater simply flows away, pulling tonnes of soil into the riverbeds causing massive siltation. With adequate vegetation in the catchment area, soil absorbs water, creating fertile floodplains. These floodplains are gigantic living systems of interdependent flora and fauna. Engineers and planners believe they can replace these natural water channels teeming with life with interlinked canals. The authorities should rather give incentives to people and put water systems back into their hands for micro-level control.
Interlinking of rivers is essential to end the water crisis in the country and to provide better food security to people. There are concerns about the environmental impacts of such a project, but it should be understood that it is not the concept but implementation that is flawed. River interlinking can have several benefits like flood mitigation and providing water to drought-prone areas.
Lakshmi Narayana Nagisetty
Where’s Indian science?
I am a regular reader of classic science magazines like Nature, Current Science and Scientific American. I notice that a lot of substantial scientific work done in our country remains unknown to the scientific community at home and abroad.
One reason may be the inundation of Indian science magazines with political, economic and other issues. When it comes to India’s shortcomings on the sanitation and healthcare fronts, international magazines portray India as a global burden. But when we have scientific achievements nobody takes a note. If we are concerned about scientific developments in the country then why ignore non-funded research work?