There has been a visible change in the way tourism is handled and promoted in national parks in the country (‘Tiger reserved’, July 16-31, 2012). The number of hotels, tourists, and vehicles in these parks has increased exponentially in the past few years due to bad management, bringing down the quality of experience one seeks at these reserves. But citing these reasons to ban wildlife tourism is nothing but high handedness. The ban robs from every citizen the pleasure of enjoying this country’s environment, forests and animals. I live in Chiplun, a small town in Maharashtra, with a population of just over 50,000. Every year, 100-200 school children from our town visit various national parks. They come back with thrilling memories of watching a tiger walking down a forest path in all its glory.
Instead of banning tourism in tiger reserves, states can take inspiration from the Madhya Pradesh government, which plans to lease out 100-150 sq km land blocks in buffer areas of tiger reserves to private players. Such a plan has been successful in Africa. The land north of the Masai Mara national reserve in Kenya belongs to the Masai community who traditionally used it for cattle grazing. These cattle were in direct competition with wild animals for resources. Now, the community has taken cattle off the land and has allowed low impact operators to run small tourist operations. The money thus generated goes directly to the community. What’s the harm in implementing such a policy in India after transferring the land rights to tribal families?
The article, “Sand slips” (April 16-30, 2012), unravelled the murky business of sand mining in the country but said nothing about its impact on the ecosystem along the Malabar coast of Kerala. Nearly 185-210 canoes are engaged daily for sand mining from Kadalundi, Murad, Korapuzha and Azhikal estuaries in the region.
The activity destroys the aquatic vegetation and eggs and larvae of fish. It also kills the benthic organisms that form the staple diet of the fish. These organisms are found at the lowest level of a water body and most are permanently attached to the riverbed.
It has been estimated that nearly 2,760 benthic organisms per square metre are killed daily due to the mining of sand along the Malabar coast. In the post-monsoon months, the figure goes even higher.
Politics of organic
The article, “Organic boom” (July 16-31, 2012), is an introspection on how organic agriculture works in the country. India’s premier institute, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), has not done any research for promoting organic agriculture but is busy pushing pesticide use. The incident described in the story on how ICAR snubs organic agriculture is an irony as agriculture is not about technology alone. There are various organic agriculture systems prevalent in different parts of the country whose market potential has not been tapped. In my state Meghalaya, agriculture is largely organic and the produce is sold directly in the market.
Small organic farmers in India face the same trouble that organic farmers in California once faced: certification cost. Fortunately, after decades of persistence, organic farmers in the US state are happier today. They were initially exploited by big retailers who gave them pennies for their produce. But as more and more farmers became independent and started selling their produce directly to the consumers, they started gaining a foothold in the market and reaped huge profits. Best wishes to all in the organic movement in India.
The politicians and agricultural scientists behind the Green Revolution are responsible for the miseries of Indian farmers. Every technology has both positive and negative aspects. In adapting green revolution technology for India, only the positive side was looked at—increasing food production to meet the immediate needs—but the long-term negative consequences of this technology on the environment and people were overlooked.
The technology destroyed the biodiversity and traditional agriculture, which was environment-friendly and sustainable. To improve the economic condition of farmers, we must go back to the traditional agriculture system and reduce the wasteful expenditure of the government, amounting to crores each year, in providing subsidies and loans.
S Jeevananda Reddy
High And Dry
The National Climate Data Center of the US recently said that the country is facing its biggest drought since 1956 (‘Weather dice is loaded’, July 16-31, 2012). I live in Michigan, a once water-surplus state. But now due to insignificant rains, many farmers here have lost their crops. If a similar situation arises in southeast Asia, things could get worse due to high population density and over-dependence on monsoons.
Take Stock Of Livestock
It is high time that livestock conservation policies are changed for the better, particularly in the drought-prone regions of India (‘Drought and live-stock’, July16-31, 2012). Contingency livestock planning should be undertaken on a war footing to provide fodder to cattle in case of a drought. A revolving fund to purchase fodder and its distribution in cattle camps already exists in Haryana but other states need to implement this programme immediately.
K Kailasa Nathan
Most drought management strategies emphasise on crop losses but livestock-based products like milk and meat are seldom given due importance. During droughts heavy deficit of fodder results in decline in milk and meat production. A holistic approach is needed to revitalise our agricultural economy to combat droughts.
The article, “Reservoirs losing capacity” (August 16-31, 2012), states: “The 1,500 MW Nathpa-Jhakri power project in Himachal’s Kinnaur district and the 1,000 MW Karcham-Wangtoo power project in the state’s Lahaul-Spiti district, that boast of generating more electricity than their installed capacity, had to be shut down for more than 24 hours...”. The Karcham-Wangtoo power project is in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district.
We regret the error.
PICK OF THE POSTBAG
Water harvesting polluting groundwater?
Studies by the Central Ground Water Board have shown that the quality of groundwater in Delhi is deteriorating fast. In most areas, it contains harmful chemicals like arsenic and pesticides and is not fit for drinking. Samples from certain areas show that the water is also not fit for irrigation. This is alarming since most people in the city depend on groundwater to meet their needs.
One reason behind this fast deterioration in water quality may well be the manner in which we are trying to harvest rainwater in various colonies. Directing the rainwater accumulated on rooftops and roads straight to the aquifers through vertical pipes, without adequate treatment, is a poor substitute of recharging of aquifers by natural percolation through layers of soil and rocks. If this will not contaminate our groundwater, what will?
We must stop and seal all such rainwater harvesting projects immediately and try to identify as many vacant low-lying areas as possible and protect them with strong fences. Such areas will allow natural percolation.
A K Chatterjee
Down To Earth replies
You have rightly pointed out that untreated rainwater must not be used for recharging an aquifer. All harvested rainwater must go through elaborate filter systems to remove contaminants before being either stored or used for recharging the aquifer.
However, your letter gives the impression that rainwater contains arsenic and pesticides. Rainwater is the purest form of water, and when harvested from clean rooftops it normally should not have pesticides or arsenic. When it flows over the ground where pesticides are used, it may pick up these contaminants and such water must definitely be treated to ensure removal of all contaminants.