Tango with nature
India has been using lakes, ponds and baolis (step wells) since ancient times ('What monsoon means', July 16-31, 2010). Delhi was once replete with water bodies. In the past 50 years, government agencies started disbanding natural ponds, lakes and baolis, declaring their water untested, and therefore, unfit to drink. They changed the arrangements in rural areas as well by laying pipes to supply water to the rural populace.
Engineers thought they would outpace nature with technology and innovation, but nature proved them wrong. Today, the same agencies are reverting to natural methods of harvesting rainwater. Alongside supplying piped water, the government should have improved the embankments and surroundings of rural water bodies, and treated their water.
L R SHARMA
Sundernagar, Himachal Pradesh
As a child I never understood the significance of prayers related to monsoon and always rebelled. But the editorial has triggered my interest in water as a sacred element that should be celebrated. It is important that water is conserved effectively and used sustainably. A balance between the technologies available with communities and updated scientific technologies is needed.
P S RAMAKRISHNAN
We are architects teaching at University of Pennsylvania. Visualising terrains plays a significant role in formulating policy, infrastructure and design. The way we see a place dictates the way we intervene.
We are working on how visualising a river landscape comes in the way of seeing and appreciating a rain terrain. Literature on history, translations and ecology has been written with a vocabulary steeped in river thinking and riverimagination. It is water somewhere rather than everywhere.
DILIP DA CUNHA
We have never cared to remember the scientists who contributed towards understanding the science of monsoon with little facilities for observation. Even today we do not have a complete list of monsoon experts available in the country.
S K DUBE
I am an artist from Sweden working on an art project called 'Images of Water and Desert' for years now. My project includes women from Rajasthan who make embroideries depicting scenes from their lives and work surrounding water.
Groundwater depletion in Andhra Pradesh is alarming (Ground Reality, July 16-31, 2010). Keeping the vulnerability and challenges of water in mind, some of the solutions are:
N LAKSHMI NARAYANA
The Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act, 2002, is an example of good legislation and poor implementation. The Act offers comprehensive steps for protection and utilisation of land and water resources.
As the Act is inter-disciplinary in nature, no government department is willing to accept the responsibility of its implementation. At the time of its formulation, there was talk of setting up a new department to oversee agricultural land and water management. The concept did not crystalise because of change of government in the state. It is worthwhile to implement this law with changes wherever necessary.
V V N MURTY
FIELDS TURN CONCRETE
Paddy fields in Kanyakumari are being converted into housing plots. The Conservation of Nature Trust in Nagercoil and other NGOs have requested the Tamil Nadu government to enact a law banning it. In Kanyakumari district alone, paddy fields covered about 52,000 hectares (ha) in 1970.
Today, the area is reduced to 17,000 ha. Post 2008, the conversion rate has increased. Paddy production from the district has plummeted from 320 thousand metric tonnes in 1970 to 140 thousand metric tonnes in 2008. Soil is also taken illegally from hills for landfilling of paddy fields and tanks. The district collector has stopped landfilling of paddy fields. Most real estate brokers in Tamil Nadu do not pay income tax because they are not registered and land mafia is becoming very powerful.
R S LAL MOHAN
CAN I USE BULLOCK POWER?
It was interesting to read that bureaucrats are keen on providing farmers with the bullock-powered pump ('Electric Cattle', July 16-31, 2010). But I wonder how the device would compete with the conventional electric power generated tube wells. I belong to a farmer's family in Haryana and have about four hectares of unconsolidated land. The article does not mention how much area is required to run the system. Can this technology be applied cost effectively in our field?
Conflict between wild animals and farmers is a complex issue. The reasons for this clash are many, like increase in herbivore population since the enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, fragmentation of existing animal habitats due to encroachment of forests, decrease in fodder value of wild animals' habitats because of weeds, and high succulent crops close to forest areas which attract wild animals.
Measures to mitigate this problem are site-specific and unilateral ('Border Conflict', May 16-30, 2010). Farmers can raise crops that do not attract wild animals, for example ginjali, turmeric, soya bean, tobacco, sunflower, mustard, lady's finger. Crop insurance and timely compensation to crop damages are other ways of tackling the problem.
B M T RAJEEV
EU VS INDIA
Lihocin is making headlines because the grapes consignment to the European Union showed residue of it, and this poses a serious health risk to consumers there ('EU rejects Indian grapes', May 16-31, 2010). The food we Indians eat has high proportions of pesticides categorised under Class I (extremely or highly hazardous) and Class II (moderately hazardous) by WHO.
What about that? These pesticides are used at the harvest stage in vegetables and fruits even when their use is restricted to 60 days before harvest. Do we not have the same health risks as our European counterparts?
LOOK WHERE WASTE IS
To increase production of milk to meet the growing demand, we have to ensure fodder security ('Strained milk', June 16-30, 2010). Cashew apples, tamarind seeds that go waste could be added to the fodder. It is time to think of a second white revolution.
HYGIENE FOR ALL
Rural areas are not the only market for low-cost sanitary napkins ('Rags to pads', July 16-31, 2010). Urban slums are also important. If government sche mes target slums for menstrual hygiene, women there can also form self-help groups and earn from napkin making.
Convenient public transport is a must for reducing traffic jams in metro cities ('Unlock the grid', August 16-31, 2010). Delhi lacks it. Auto rickshaws are troublesome and costly. Travelling in public buses is a nightmare. Hike in parking rate and congestion tax are no solutions. Countries where such taxes exist are different compared to India. Small cars can solve parking problems to some extent because they require less space.
The new rules for medical insurance to pay first to hospitals and then claim refunds is more painful than the treatment ('String attached', August 1-15, 2010). The rule will enc ourage people not to opt for insurance.
Madar to the rescue
I read Pramod Sharma's letter regarding keeping termites away, while sparing house lizards, cockroaches, earthworms and other crawlies ('Help', August 1-15, 2010). We have successfully kept termites off our house for the past five years by soaking madar (Calotropis gigantea) plant in water overnight and using the water to mop the floor. We have also left enough dead wood and leaf litter all around the house so that the termites can feed on them.
I have not used any other poison during construction of the house, nor am I using any now.
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