Down To Earth and the Centre for Science and Environment announce the winner of the 2001 Green Scientist Award. In the exercise to rate the efforts of India's environmental scientists, the study shows some alarming facts. Firstly, that the Indian government is just not bothered about the state of environmental research is apparent from the pittance it allocates to the environment as part of the overall research and development budget. Secondly, that whatever it spends is a big waste with very low productivity and value
Science for ecology
Down To Earth and the Centre for Science and Environment announce that the winner of the 2001 Green Scientist Award is V P Sharma , former head of the Malaria Research Centre. Instituted to recognise and honour commendable scientific efforts in the crucial but ignored area of environmental science, the award acknowledges Sharma's path-breaking efforts to develop bioenvironmental strategies to control the malaria-bearing mosquito, one of the biggest health problems in India and other developing countries. The DTE-CSE exercise to rate the efforts of India's environmental scientists throws up some rather alarming facts. Firstly, that the Indian government is just not bothered about the state of environmental research is apparent from the pittance it allocates to the environment as part of the overall research and development budget. Secondly, that whatever it spends is a big waste with very low productivity and value. Our rating of the environmental research sector earned it low points
Peanuts for ecology
If there is one thing true about India, it's that it is a diverse country. Economically, technologically and environmentally. Some are very rich, some are very poor. There are some who use modern technologies, and there are others who still use technologies that were used a millennium ago. And, of course, there are some who live in high mountains, some in hot deserts, some in the world's most flood-intense floodplains, and some in tropical forests. If Indian science were designed to meet the needs of the Indian people, one would have expected it to be as diverse. But then whoever gave us the idea that Indian scientific research was designed to meet the needs of the Indian people!
In the modern day and age, scientific research is supposed to be a key tool for achieving progress. Unfortunately, few public commentators take the time to look at where our research and development ( r&d ) expenditures go. Indian businesspersons are definitely not interested in Indian r&d , they are only interested in importing technology -- that is what our boffins love to tell us. But let us look at where they themselves like to spend their money.
One look at the national priorities that our scientists address shows that making bombs and missiles gets as much as two-thirds of our r & d money and is the top priority for our scientists (see table: Science: its absence in our daily lives ). If indeed some Rs 3,000 crore is needed for this purpose every year and that is the top priority for India's elected politicians, then so be it. But then the total r&d expenditure surely has to be much larger so that our other national needs are also addressed. That, however, is not the case. If we add the expenditure made on Science for National Security to science for industrial development, it would account for over three-quarters of our r&d expenditure. These are funds allocated to two areas of science and technology which have precious little to do with our daily lives or at best only tangentially.
On the other hand, Science for Food Security (which ensures that we get enough food), Science for Ecological Security (which ensures that we get clean air, clean water, healthy forests, grasslands and wetlands, helping us to deal with natural disasters like floods, drought and cyclones), Science for Health Security (which ensures that we live in a healthy environment) and Science for Social Security (which ensures that technologies are developed to provide livelihood opportunities to the poorest of the poor -- the Gandhian vision of technology, for instance), all these areas get next to nothing. In a country where so many people are malnourished, so many are poor and without proper livelihoods, and the environment is changing and threatening food and health security of millions, these misplaced priorities are more than deplorable. They are frightening. They show how such an important section of our intelligentsia is totally out of touch with the country's realities.
An excellent example of the high brow character of Indian science is the proud announcement, made just a few days after the Western press reports that the entire human genome had been sequenced, that the government of India has given Rs 100 crore to the Indian Council of Medical Research ( icmr ) for projects that use genomic information to develop new vaccines for aids , hepatitis and what not. icmr normally spends only about Rs 50 crore, which is just about what the nondescript department of ocean development gets for r&d . Is ocean development as important as our health?
Working on the human genome is, of course, important for developing scientific careers and rubbing shoulders with leading scientists abroad. But who wants to work on diarrhoea or dysentery that kill millions of Indians every year. The Central government also indicated recently that it wants to involve private companies and non-resident Indians in the development of world class science and technology institutions. But there has been nothing in terms of training our rural people to bring science and technology into their lives.
In this disaster called policymaking, it is not surprising that despite the scale of environmental problems, so little money is spent on Science for Ecological Security. Can you believe it that the Central Pollution Control Board, entrusted with monitoring air and water pollution across the country, gets only about Rs 8 crore?
In fact, in this mess, the very claim of the department of science and technology that in 1996-97, the Central and state governments and the public and private sector companies together spent as much as Rs 338 crore on research for environmental protection is quite stunning. Most environmentalists would be surprised to hear that the government spends so much money on environmental research.
But then the government not only misprioritises its expenditures, it also spends whatever it spends very badly, with very little output and with little productivity. The department of science and technology could not give Down To Earth the breakdown of the expenditure of Rs 338 crore, neither projectwise nor institutionwise. A Down to Earth reporter spent a fortnight collecting data on the r&d expenditure of different institutions that appear to work on mainly environmental issues (see table: Budgets of institutions ). This data shows how little money is spent on important areas like biodiversity conservation, research on renewable energy or on water harvesting technologies. Not surprisingly, for the water technocrats, in fact, the very concept of water harvesting was a mystery until recently.
few people realise that the 21st century is going to be the century of the environment. Technological change in this century is going to be heavily driven by the environmental imperative. Any nation that forgets to invest in environmental science and technology will only do so at its own peril -- its economy and the lives and health of its people. Human technologies will be forced to mimic nature's cycles and gentleness. Else they will threaten the very survival of the human race.
How can we say that such development is destined to take place? Firstly, let us look at the evolution of science itself in the 20th century. Scientists during the last century essentially asked four important questions. At the start of the century, the biggest question that was in the minds of scientists like Albert Einstein or Neils Bohr was 'What is Matter'. By the middle of the 20th century, scientists had begun to ask two other important questions, namely, 'What is Life' and 'What is the Universe'. It was around the 1950s that Francis Crick and James Watson unravelled the structure of the dna . This discovery led to enormous developments in life sciences and, more recently, we have begun to see the emergence of biotechnologies based on the knowledge gathered by life scientists in a very big way. But by the last quarter of the 20th century, scientists had begun to ask yet another critical question and that is 'What is the Web of Life'.
This last question was not asked out of scientific curiosity but because of human necessity. The vast range of technologies that had emerged because of increased human understanding of nature was beginning to have major impacts on nature itself. Soon after the World War ii ended in 1945, within just 15 years, the world witnessed what economists call the Post-War Economic Boom. During this period, the Western world not only saw enormous economic growth but also enormous environmental problems. By 1960, it was impossible to breathe in most Western cities, all the way from Tokyo to Los Angeles, and rivers like the Rhine and the Thames had become stinking sewers. Therefore, an enormous amount of scientific and technological investment had to be made from the 1970s onwards to deal with the environmental crisis.
The Western environmental crisis of the 1950s and 1960s was not a historical accident. It is inherent to the Western technological paradigm which is dependent on a very heavy use of materials and energy and which, therefore, leads to rapid degradation of the environment. By the last two decades of the 20th century, this technological paradigm had begun to spread in a big way into the developing world and, not surprisingly, Southeast and East Asia which began to show high rates of economic growth, quickly became the most polluted part of the world.
As this technological paradigm spreads across the developing world in the 21st century, we can expect an enormous amount of environmental mayhem to take place, which is going to go well above the carrying capacity of the earth's environment and could easily destroy numerous critical geochemical cycles like the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle.
Let me explain a little bit about these environmental surprises. Nature and its various sub-components are all very complex systems. When major interventions are made into these very complex systems, no one ever knows what will be the result. Because of the complexity of nature's ecosystems, it is almost impossible to predict the outcome. It is like millions of rats being let out across the Himalayan range. But even if we know that these rats have a tendency to congregate, the Himalayan range is so large that nobody can predict where and on which mountain these rats will begin to emerge and start eating it away. This is exactly what happens with technological interventions. Let me illustrate this with a few examples.
DDT (dichloro diphenyl trichloethane): First of the chlorinated organic insecticides, ddt was originally prepared in 1873. In 1939, Paul Muller of Geigy Pharmaceutical in Switzerland discovered its effectiveness as an insecticide -- he was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in 1948 for this discovery. ddt 's use increased enormously worldwide after World War ii . In the late 1940s, Charles Broley, a Canadian banker retired to Florida, said the pesticide, sprayed along the gulf coast to control salt marsh mosquitoes, was the cause of the drop in the numbers of the bald eagle -- unique to North America and the us national emblem. Subsequent research showed that the chemical interfered with its ability to develop strong shells for its eggs. The shells were so thin that the eggs often broke during incubation or failed to hatch. Their reproduction disrupted, bald eagle populations plummeted. As the dangers of ddt became known, in large part due to Rachel Carson's famous book Silent Spring , it was banned for most uses in the us in 1972. Several countries have banned it since, while some like India continue to use it to counter the menace of malaria. They desperately need a new way to control mosquitoes as vectors develop resistance to ddt .
CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons): When chlorofluorocarbons were first discovered in the 1930s, they were seen as wonder substances because of their extreme stability. In fact, after the Second World War ended, they not only came to be used in air-conditioning and refrigeration systems but also in medical uses like inhalers used by asthmatics. These gases could go deep into the lungs of asthmatics and yet have no effect on them. But nobody could have dreamt that in the 1970s scientists would find that these chlorofluorocarbons were destroying a global ecological system like the stratospheric ozone layer and literally threaten the very survival of life on earth. The stratospheric ozone layer acts as a very important protective shield against the lethal ultraviolet radiation coming in from space. By the mid-1980s, scientists had discovered a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica and by the end of 1980s, the nations of the world had to get together to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons. Today, the world is busy redesigning all its air-conditioning and refrigeration technology.
POPs (persistent organic pollutants): In the mid-1980s, a Canadian scientist, Eric Dewailly of Laval University in Quebec, was trying to look for pure, unpolluted human milk to compare with the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls ( pcb s) in the milk of Southern Quebec women. He collected the blood of Canadian Eskimos, also known as the Inuit people, who were living way up in the Arctic region, far away from the industrialised world. The scientist was stunned to find five times more pcb s in the milk of Inuit mothers. He could not believe what he had found, and thought he had made a mistake. Repeated tests showed that this was indeed a common problem among the Inuit people. Now scientists know that the use of pop s in countries situated far away in the lower latitudes leads to these pollutants, which do not degrade easily, riding the waves and the winds and finally reaching the Arctic circle. Frank Wania of the University of Toronto explains that planetary circulation systems produce a "systematic transfer of these chemicals from warmer to colder areas." The Arctic region acts as a 'cold trap' where the chemicals fall from the sky and dissolve in water, disappear into sediments or accumulate in the fat of animals or fish, which the Inuit eat ( see graph on p41 ). Today, there is an international treaty to phase out these pop s.
Diesel: Up to the early 1990s, diesel was regarded as a green fuel because of its higher fuel efficiency as compared to petrol. It was, therefore, seen as a solution for even arresting global warming. But in just the last five years, environmental health scientists have discovered extremely negative health effects of diesel-related pollutants. As a result, diesel today is literally being phased out across the world and every week new evidence emerges about the health effects of diesel.
Carbon dioxide: When the newly industrialising Western world embarked upon the use of fossil fuels to energise its economic engines, it had no idea that one day the use of these fossil fuels will threaten to destabilise the world's climate systems in such a way that it would threaten the very survival of a large number of coastal cities, agriculture across a wide swath of tropical lands, and numerous species of living organisms which today live in niche environments and which will not be able to colonise other environments in time. As a result, the world is now faced with a major challenge of reinventing its energy system, moving away from fossil fuel energy to zero-carbon energy, which will lead to a major technological change.
Vehicular pollution control: Within India itself those of us who have been involved with vehicular air pollution control have been consistently surprised. In Delhi, for instance, when the Supreme Court gave an order that Delhi should phase out leaded petrol because lead causes mental retardation, especially in children, everybody thought that this was a very good thing to do.
But few people realised that in order to deal with the knocking problem for which lead is normally added to petrol, refineries would increase the quantity of benzene and other aromatics in petrol. This has led to high levels of benzene in Delhi's environment and as benzene is a well known carcinogen which causes blood cancers, and as blood cancers are already very high in Delhi as compared to other Indian cities, the Supreme Court has now ordered petroleum companies to limit the benzene content in petrol.
Having done this we are now finding that the companies are trying to improve the combustion of petrol by adding oxygenates like mtbe (for methyl tertiary butyl ether) which help the combustion of the fuel. Just about 10 years ago, the us had promoted the use of mtbe in petrol in a very big way. And then it suddenly found that the substance has an extraordinary ability to travel through groundwater. It smells like turpentine and even a teaspoon of the substance can make an entire Olympic-size swimming pool stink to heaven. It is also a carcinogen. First California and now the us are taking steps to ban the use of this substance. But Indian petroleum companies like Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil Corporation have set up plants and are now adding mtbe to their petrol. So another Supreme Court order is now in order to ban the use of mtbe .
But the story doesn't end here. University of Venice scientists have reported in the last few weeks that the growing use of catalytic converters, which use heavy metals to reduce pollution from cars, is leading to accumulation of heavy metals in Greenland. So, what next? A ban on catalytic converters?
It is not surprising that already a number of new technologies are beginning to emerge which are being driven by environmental imperatives. For example, in the last 20 years, technological changes in the internal combustion engine (and the automobile industry) have been heavily driven by the environmental imperative and yet this challenge continues to dog the automobile industry. Despite all the environmental efficiency introduced into automobiles, as the number of automobiles continues to grow and new understanding of the health effects of automobile-related pollutants continues to emerge, the automobile industry is being pushed into newer and newer directions. In fact, many people now even are thinking in terms of concepts like car-free cities which would mean an altogether new approach to transportation systems within cities.
At the same time, over the last five years, there has been considerable hype about fuel cells or the use of hydrogen as a major source of energy for driving vehicles as well as small scale power generation systems. Once the use of fuel cells becomes common, there will be no need left for large power stations that require an enormous infrastructure for delivery of power. Every single household can have access to pollution-free small-scale power generating systems of its own. In other words, we will move from centralised power generation systems to extremely disaggregated systems in the years ahead. Similarly, solar cells, wind energy and a number of other renewable energy options are going to be driven by the threat of climate change.
Few people realise that the emergence of fuel cells is not because of technological curiosity. The entire interest in fuel cells has been driven by the environmental regulation set by the world's largest car market, namely, that of California, which has mandated companies to introduce zero emission vehicles in the Californian market. Auto companies first tried to think in terms of electric vehicles but found that they were not able to crack several problems related to batteries and have now taken up fuel cells in a big way. A small Canadian company, Ballard, has suddenly become a centre of interest for energy and automobile multinational giants. As Al Gore former vice-president of usa , pointed out, we are looking at the end of the internal combustion engine, which has so dominated modern lives over the last century.
In similar ways, in the decades to come, one can see numerous other technologies coming up which will replace the dinosaur technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Apart from the efforts to clean up local air, climate change will force a total revamping of the energy technologies in the decades ahead. Similarly, the use of sewer systems will disappear. These waste disposal systems totally destroy nature's nitrogen cycle in which nitrogen collected from the land ought to be returned back to the land but, on the other hand, with the use of sewers, gets dumped into rivers. The only way to deal with the environmental impact of sewer systems is to make enormous investment in sewage treatment plants. Even in the Western world there are a large number of cities which still do not have adequate sewage treatment facilities. With urbanisation growing rapidly in the developing world, the amount of investment that will be needed in sewage treatment plants apart from the investments in the sewer systems themselves, is going to be extremely high and unaffordable and long before these investments can be made, the use of sewer systems will have totally destroyed the aquatic ecosystems in the developing world, posing enormous threats both to public health and aquatic biodiversity.
In India, we don't even have to look a few years ahead. We already see the signs of this hydrocide. Literally, no small or medium river today is clean. Every river that passes through a city or a town becomes a stinking sewer. Even big rivers like the Ganga, whenever they pass through big cities, become a filthy drain. Already there are technological developments taking place which give rise to the concept of sewerless cities using new technological systems which use either extremely low amounts of water or no water at all, and in which all the wastewaters and the solid wastes are recycled.
In very simple terms, 21st century technology will move closer to the ways that nature itself works. This can be explained in two ways.
l Nature uses weak forces rather than concentrated forces to do its work. For example, nature uses very tiny temperature differences to carry as much as 4,000 million hectametres or 40,000 billion tonnes of water from the oceans and across thousands of kilometres to dump it as rainfall over India. Yet when humans want to do anything they use concentrated energy sources like coal or oil that have created enormous problems like local air pollution and global climate change. Nature does it so well and so gently without any environmental damage. In the years ahead, people will move towards much more weaker sources of energy along the lines of nature like solar energy, for example. In the area of water, too, humans have come to rely much more on concentrated water sources like rivers and aquifers in the last 100 years. But the heavy use of these sources is leading to their overexploitation. In the 21st century, human beings will once again move to weaker water resource like rainfall.
l There are various natural geophysical cycles in nature like the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle. As in the case of technologies that use the internal combustion engine, all systems that depend on the use of oil and coal or sewer systems, and which destroy the carbon cycle or the nitrogen cycle, will have to be phased out. In other words, technologies will move much closer to nature's own geophysical cycles and to more gentle use of nature's sources like energy and water, and will replace the dinosaur technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries. In this alone lies the possibility of human survival and growth.
It is thus very clear that the 21st century is going to be a century of the environment in which literally every new technology will have to be subjected to environmental scrutiny and consistently modified to meet environmental needs. We have already seen that one of the first major developments in biotechnology, namely, genetically modified organisms, has run into strong environmental opposition and even the most powerful companies are being forced to take the environmental concern into account. There is no reason to believe that this is an isolated problem. The writing is on the wall. These problems will keep coming back to us again and again and we will have to deal with them on an ongoing basis. Any effort to deny this reality will only be at our own peril and lead to heavy costs for humans and for the health of our ecosystems.
In other words, investments in Science for Ecological Security will have to become a very critical element of our investments in Science for food security, our health security, our industrial development, our livelihood security and, indeed, even our national security in the larger sense. No longer can we say that science for food security can forget the Science of Ecological Security because if there is ecological devastation, it will be impossible to produce any food.
In this context, it is a really sad to note that both the quantity of our investments in Science for Ecological Security and the quality of the research that is being carried out in this area is abysmal compared to the challenges that India faces today. Neither are we able to address the problems of our biomass-based rural economies in terms of their scientific requirements for boosting ecological security nor are we able to deal with the enormous environmental problems that have been created by urbanisation industrialisation and motorisation in urban areas. This shortcoming has to be addressed. And fast.
Green Scientist Award
T he Centre for Science and Environment ( cse ) and Down To Earth have instituted the award to highlight the state of environmental research in India and to encourage and honour commendable efforts in this crucial but ignored area. This is one way to make more funds available for environmental research in the country.
To begin with, a peer group was identified to recommend and nominate scientists. Members were chosen on the basis of their role in priority areas of environmental science and technology in India. Letters were sent to them, seeking nominations. An advertisement was also placed in Down To Earth , asking our readers to send nominations. A third way to obtain nominations was to write to heads of scientific institutions.
Nominations were accepted on the basis of certain criteria.
l Standing and profile of the person who sent a nomination.
l Relevance of the nominee's work to various environmental areas.
A total of 58 nominations were received. Of these, 8 were shortlisted for the final rating. Down To Earth reporters went out to investigate the work of the scientists at the field level. They submitted lengthy reports. These reports were then submitted to the jury panel. After the jury panel cleared and finalised the names of the shortlisted candidates, rating was undertaken in accordance with specified criteria and priority areas accepted by the jury (see p44: Basis of rating ).
Rating was first carried out by an internal group of cse . The results of the rating were submitted to the jury panel. The ratings were deliberated over by the jury members and then the award was finalised.
Malaria affects the most vulnerable: children of poor families in developing countries face the greatest risk. The chemical pesticides used to combat the disease in the past 50 years or so pose grave dangers to the environment and human health (see box: Problem ). Any solution that can help the most vulnerable people to get out of this treadmill, in which the cure becomes worse than the disease, is of no mean value. That is what bioenvironmental vector control does -- controlling malaria without damaging the environment. And that is why V P Sharma's work is important (see box: Solution ). He has made an alternate strategy of malaria control operationally feasible.
Sharma's work ranges from malariology, epidemiology and malaria control, entomology, genetics, vector biology and control of vector-borne diseases. It isn't that he invented techniques for bioenvironmental vector control -- they were there before he began his work. His major contribution has been to integrate these approaches. In this, Sharma's work establishes the view that the age of sectoral approaches to problems is over. The key word for the 21st century is 'integration'. The realisation of non-chemical approaches to malaria control is a direct impact of Sharma's work (see table: What it is about ).
His work as the founder-director of the Malaria Research Centre ( mrc ) helped take the message of bioenvironmental control across the country. After projects were carried out to validate the bioenvironmental system, several state governments have taken it up, including those of Maharashtra and Goa. Go through scientific papers on malaria in India and you are bound to come across references to Sharma's work. The secondary impacts of mrc 's work include the creation of minor industries like fisheries, culture of biological control agents and treated bednets. Among the awards he has received are the Padma Shree, bestowed by the government of India, and the Darling Foundation Award given by who , which has accepted Sharma's approach as a way to control malaria.
Sharma's work doesn't stop at addressing a grave threat to public health. It goes a step further in coming up with a sustainable development strategy for rural India, a system that can decentralise healthcare and base it on more common sense approaches. Sharma's work is important also because it negates the adverse effects of bad planning by Indian administrators. Kheda district in Gujarat, where the bioenvironmental approach was initiated, is a potential site for malaria epidemics because of several ecological changes. With the onset of canal irrigation, several factors such as continuous irrigation, multiple cropping patterns, increased waterlogging due to seepage from canals, and the lack of proper and adequate drainage have resulted in an alarming rise in the incidence of malaria. This is pretty much the story across the country, from areas in Rajasthan that have been introduced to the disease after the coming of the Indira Gandhi canal, to the villages of Bihar were embankments built on rivers have created waterlogging.
"Bioenvironmental control is the cheapest way of preventing malaria, cheaper than ddt ," says Sharma. "On a national level, it will turn out to be even cheaper," he adds. The per capita cost of bioenvironmental control is Rs 7.1. Per capita cost of application of pesticides like ddt and hch costs Rs 9.91 and Rs 8.97, respectively. Lindane, used as a substitute for hch in some places, costs twice as much as bioenvironmental control. Even medicated mosquito bednets and larvicides (chemical and biological) are three to four times more expensive.
"With bioenvironmental control, we will also get employment and income generation schemes such as fish culture and social forestry. They will be enough to carry the cost," Sharma elaborates. It should also be noted that the estimate of bioenvironmental control does not take into account the long-term savings from better health, hygiene and environmental protection.
At least 35 people died of malaria in 1983 in Nadiad taluka of Gujarat's Kheda district. The Malaria Research Centre, with V P Sharma as director, began its work on bioenvironmental control here. This was a response to the failure of the National Malaria Eradication Programme (NMEP), which was all about residual insecticide sprays and chemotherapy to prevent the resurgence of malaria. Three decades of success with this approach was followed by three kinds of resistance.
l Parasites were becoming resistant to drugs.
l Mosquitoes were developing resistance against chemical insecticides.
l The people of Nadiad were becoming resistant to the idea of spraying toxic insecticides.
MRC's approach was people-centred, encouraging them to fight the disease. It involved two things.
l Biological management: Releasing larvae-eating fish in open waterbodies -- varieties that serve this purpose include Guppy ( Poecilia reticulata ) and Gambusia ( Gambusia affinis ) -- and spraying biological larvicides, rather than chemical ones.
l Environmental management: Improving drainage and sanitation systems, filling up ditches, use of treated mosquito nets, and covering of domestic water tanks.
For five years, MRC staff toiled relentlessly to eliminate breeding sources without the use of chemicals. By 1989, when the project ended in 1989 after the Indian Council of Medical Research refused to extend it, the results were all there to see.
The bioenvironmental approach turns the problem into not just a solution but also a source of income generation. This strategy utilises local resources and humanpower, involving community partnership through sustained efforts in health education. Fish culture, social forestry, cottage industries and alternate sources of energy, among other things, are linked with malaria control to make it holistic and self-sustained.
The strongest reason for recommending this approach in India is the decentralised character -- it involves communities in taking up malaria control themselves, rather than wait for government agencies to spray DDT. It is an indigenous, low-cost and highly efficient technology that doesn't require expensive equipment and training. It is the cheapest method of malaria control as compared to the cheapest pesticide DDT. The approach results in overall improvement of the environment and the local economy, bringing about integrated rural development.
Basis of rating
Recognition received: This comprised awards won and the number of scientific publications. Although the dte-cse award is aimed at highlighting unrecognised work, the credibility of the work undertaken and number of awards won was considered important. In terms of publications, the number of papers as well as citations of the work were considered.
l Impact: This was rated on the basis of the potential beneficiaries of the scientific work. Marks awarded to innovative work that benefits the most vulnerable sections of the society -- tribal people, women, rural people -- were twice as much as that awarded to work benefitting sections that are better off, like urban populations, commercial groups and governments. Universally applicable work received the same weightage as that for the weaker sections.
l Tangibility : Maximum weightage was accorded to work that led to the development of products, services as well as opening up of new areas. Work that led to only two of these received two-thirds of the marks. In case the work created only one of the three, one-third marks were awarded.
l Sustainability: This category recognised work which had long-term impact over those which had short-term effects. There were four categories: long term (over 100 years); medium term (50-100 years); short term (10-50 years); and very short term (less than 10 years). The weightage awarded was 100 per cent, 75 per cent, 50 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively.
l Institutionalisation: If a scientific work led to a pilot project and then found acceptance in the market, or led to a policy impact and the setting up of a governance system, it got twice as much weightage as a work that didn't go beyond the pilot project level. If the work was restricted to scientific research only, it got one-fourth the weightage given to a work that fell in the first category.
The work of each nominee was investigated by a primary investigator and the report was submitted to the jury. As the jury represented a wide range of experience in scientific matters, the jury's deliberations and verdict were considered as final.
Quality of Research: Only a fig leaf
I n 1996-97, the government of India claims that it spent Rs 333.8 crore on protection and sustainable use of the environment. Our research shows that in 1998-99, the government spent some Rs 474.81 crore. These may be inadequate sums of money, but by themselves they are not small. How well is this money being spent to protect the health of our ecosystems, the country's biodiversity and human beings?
In an attempt to understand the quality of this research, Down To Earth and the Centre for Science and Environment applied the same criteria it applied to find the Green Scientist 2001 to all the nominations received. And then applied the Five Green Leaves methodology developed by cse to assess the environmental performance of Indian companies (see table: Green Leaves Award Weighted Score ). The results were abysmally poor.
l Of the total 60 nominations received, as many as 52 were rejected for consideration for the award because they were not found to be working in areas of priority identified by the jury. These 52 nominees got 305 marks out of a total of 2,600 -- an average of 5.9 marks out of a maximum of 50.
l For the eight nominations considered for the award, the nominees received 226 marks out of a total of 400 -- an average of 28.3 out of a maximum of 50.
l Thus, all the nominees together received 531 marks out of a maximum of 3,000 -- an average of 17.7 per cent.
As a result, dte and cse can give the environmental research sector only a one leaf award.
This is obviously very poor performance. And, mind you, this does not present the full picture of the quality of environmental research in India. Because these are ratings received by people who were nominated for the Green Scientist Award.
We would expect these scientists to be amongst the better environmental scientists in the country. And dte-cse made a special effort to find good environmental scientists. If all those who were not nominated for the award were included, the ratings would obviously be far worse.
Compared to the environmental challenges that India faces, it is clear that scientific research is not up to the task. India's r&d managers must knock their heads together to see how the country's r&d rupees are better spent.
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