Published: Monday 31 October 2005

Total misrepresentation

This has reference to the article entitled 'Dispirited agreement' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2005). Your reporter had discussed with me the features of the ethanol-blended programme of the government. However, I find that in the article certain statements are ascribed to me in quotes, which are not at all what I had stated, and give a deliberate and malicious intemperate expression of resentment on my part for the ethanol blended programme, a programme for the implementation of which I am personally committed.

For your record, I had told your reporter that the ethanol programme was introduced in a year of bumper sugarcane/sugar production for providing that extra support to the sugar industry and for supporting the rural economy. Subsequently however, availability of ethanol has posed a persistent problem. On a specific query from your reporter if the government was giving any fiscal incentive to the oil companies for the programme, I had explained that at present there was no incentive of any kind for blending of ethanol in petrol for the oil companies, and that for implementing the programme, oil companies were required to make logistic arrangements for receiving ethanol, blending it and supplying the ethanol blended petrol to retail outlets.

I categorically deny that I had said that ethanol was introduced because the sugar industry "just wants huge profits" or that it is a "headache" to blend ethanol with petrol. Putting such crass, pedestrian and intemperate expressions in quotes in the article appears to be a deliberate attempt to malign me in particular, and the ministry of petroleum and natural gas in general. For a magazine of the stature of Down To Earth, it is indeed very unfortunate.

Aditi S Ray
Joint adviser
Government Of India
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
New Delhi...

Unhealthy monopoly

The cover story, 'Discontent' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2005), was quite an eye-opener. The Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) has draconian powers with regards to environmental impact assessments (eia) for infrastructural projects. It frames legislation, implements them and is also the first agency that anyone aggrieved by large projects must beseech. There have been numerous amendments to the eia procedure but none have worked to the benefit of the general public. Pray why should the eia requirement be just notified and not made into a general rule or act? And, why should the moef and the state pollution control boards review eia when the latter are already burdened with implementing the Air and Water Act, 1970. Why can't the Central Pollution Control Board, which has offices all over India, be entrusted with reviewing eias?

Ramesha Chandrappa

Misplaced priorities

Today, there is a tendency to invest in gas-based power plants. But why have we forgotten that natural gas is a perishable resource? Besides by investing in gas-based plants, we are cutting into the share of cooking gas. Let's be very clear: providing gas for cooking purposes is much more necessary than using it to generate electricity for industries.

R N Purohit

Rant no good

The editorial, 'The new dirty deal" (Down To Earth, September 15, 2005) misses the wood for the trees. Outmoded rhetoric against "evil" us capitalists can be totally counterproductive. There is no doubt that we need to work to implement the Kyoto Protocol -- which itself does not go far enough in view of the devastating economic consequences of global climate change. However, we need to be much more active in reducing our own emissions. At the same time, we should also be on our guard while committing to multilateral agreements. We should do everything we can to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we should be pragmatic enough to not arrest our economic growth.

Jayant Murthy

Try biofuels

The editorial, 'A joke we played on ourselves' (Down To Earth, September 30, 2005) pits public transport against private vehicles. But let's not forget that public transport also runs on fossil fuels. For example, the much-acclaimed Delhi Metro gets its power from super thermal-power stations. Even compressed natural gas is a fossil fuel. We need to move towards eco-friendly biofuels. Government-run institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, have made much noise about making fuel grade ethanol from waste rice straws. But nothing has accrued out of their efforts.

R Santhanam

Grains of truth

The article,'Rice does not need water' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2005) showers encomiums on the system of rice intensification (sri). However, it must be noted that there are fundamental problems in trying out the method in Andhra Pradesh. sri requires adequate drainage provision to fields. It's also contingent on assured irrigation water supply. Fields in Andhra Pradesh have neither.

In Japan, a similar predicament was put to rest by completely relaying paddy fields: they were provided with irrigation and drainage facilities. Such modifications might not be possible in India. But at the same time, we need to improve our rice yields. So, we shouldchange field layouts and also manage water well. Paddy field management also has to be looked at from an agro-ecological point of view. These fields have important ecological roles such as influencing groundwater quality.

V V N Murty

Out of touch

This is with reference to the article 'What ails icar' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2005). Farmers in Europe are also beset with similar institutions. Agricultural research is in the hands of people who are several generations away from real farming.

Agriculture is not an industry and should not be treated as one. Farming is a way of life in India -- and in most other countries. The client for farmers is not agribusiness. We would be in serious trouble if we turn our farmers into providers for agribusiness.

E R Orskov

Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: editor@downtoearth.org.in...

Pick of the Postbag

Why chase oil The editorial, 'A joke we played on ourselves' (Down To Earth, September 30, 2005) speaks of several issues relevant to the energy sector, and makes incisive comments on heavy oil imports. Oil prices spiralling towards us $ 100 per barrel bear no relation at all with the cost of production, and are results of machinations of market forces.

It's true oil conservation is one way to address the problem and experts estimate that a little prudence can help us conserve about 25 per cent of the oil we use. Even then, with no luck in finding new oil and oil gas reserves, we have to ultimately find alternatives to these fossil fuels.

The country should immediately switch over to a mass transportation system. Fiscal disincentives should be introduced to dissuade people from buying cars, which guzzle up oil. In contrast, hybrid and electric cars should be given incentives. Railways should undertake complete electrification.

But above all, we should do our best to harness the country's renewable energy potential. Experts estimate that India's renewable energy (re) potential amounts to more than 1,70,000 megawatts -- most of it is untapped. Only 1 per cent of the land in the country's metros will be enough to set up infrastructure capable of harnessing the country's re infrastructure. It is high time that we invest in such benign energy and get rid of oil-based plants.

C R Bhattacharjee

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