Flying? Take a train
We should learn from the European experience so far as flying is concerned (see 'Runaway competition', Down To Earth, October 15, 2005). Everyone is jumping into the aviation business thanks to the 'open sky' policy, part of liberalisation. But in Europe, short and middle distances are covered faste and cheaper through the excellent Eurorail network. So one wonders why we are not paying attention to improving our rail system, making it world class, enabling it to carry many passengers cheaper and faster.
For example, there is not much sense in flying between Bangalore and Chennai. Though the actual flying time is 35 minutes, check-in, arrival/departure and congested roads make the total travel time 3-4 hours. If a train could make a journey in the same time, more passengers would prefer the comfort of an a / c train than go through the hassles of security checks, delayed flights and travelling to and from an airport.
D B N Murthy
Oil's not well
Apropos the editorial on the recent increase in oil prices (see 'A joke we've played on ourselves' Down To Earth, September 30, 2005), it is absolutely correct to say that thanks to competitive politics, we are slowly (or is it rapidly?) dismantling our railway system. To travel between Mysore and Bangalore by passenger class costs Rs 14. I just could not believe the ticket cost when I took the trip two years ago. It has not gone up since then. Thus the railways are starved of budget. There should be hardly any buses or cars running between Bangalore and Mysore if we had a double track and trains running every 30 minutes. But the railways do not have the funds and expect the government to pay for it. Where will government get the funds if they have to spend most of their revenue on salaries? There is also the pressure to reduce sales tax on petrol and diesel so that the rich and the middle class can use cars and two-wheelers. And then our finance minister declares, as pointed out, he would reduce taxes on cars to boost the sector!
There isn't any real chance of having international emission caps and/or emissions trading. Thugs like George will never care about anything but their own pile of gold and their ability to scare people. The same goes for Tony Blair. The one hope is that the leaders of countries will eventually see alternative energy, being cheaper than war, as a good thing.
India could use its engineering talent to develop more wind and solar power. And, possibly base rural distribution on a model similar to the Stockholm Institute's installations in Africa. The by-product of a particularly South Asian design might not only bring export profit, but bring security to Asia -- head off what would be skirmishes over oil.
I have seen solar panels in Karen villages on the Thai-Burmese border, panels being carried across the Himalaya by Tibetan traders. The Tibetans use them to run video disk players. Its only fat Americans, Urenco and a few oil traders that seem repelled by the idea of clean power.
Keep up the good work.
J W Lane
Earth's dirtiest polluters? According to Science News (February 2000) those two are India and China. It is your burning of your fields and forests that produce 10 times the carbon-dioxide that Australia and usa combined produce! From space, your fires and those of China and Indonesia look like many volcanoes...dumping tonnes of co2 into the atmosphere. The developed countries produce 1/10th of 1 per cent of this co2.
I'm tired of your silly statements that the Kyoto agreement is anything more than bogus non-science... long since discredited.
In the face of recent Russian information that our outer planets as well as Mars and our Moon are all growing warmer, the idea of global warming caused by co2 is ridiculous. Our current warming trend has happened before. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs were poor note-takers.
Our Sun is growing hotter (nasa 1994) as the rate of its hydrogen burning increases. This is a 50-year cycle but is little compared to what is happening now to our solar system. Blaming this warming trend on "dirty countries" is like Aztecs crying for human sacrifice to improve their weather. If we are to really understand what is happen.
Our own anti-diabetic
It was interesting to read about the kothala himbutu creeper, the antidiabetic Sri Lankan herb now at the centre of controversy(see 'Export controversy', Down To Earth, September 15, 2005). The bark of the Vijaysar tree (Pterocarpus marsupium) is also supposed to be antidiabetic but taking the bark away does not kill the tree. The tree becomes green again after some time
Let's have a Farmer's Day
Kudos to Jayadeviah S for adopting an innovative and sustainable farming system which revived his fortune (see 'Profit from an acre', Down To Earth, September 15, 2005) Achievements of such farmers should be brought to the notice of the state government. The Tamil Nadu government should give incentives to such promising, hard-working and self-sufficient farmers and recommend them for rewards at the national level.
We can produce many more Jayadeviahs if their labour and perseverance is recognised at the national level on Farmer's Day. Do we have a day for them? If yes, why isn't it highlighted?
There are some factual inaccuracies in the story on a vaccine developed for the peste des petits ruminants (ppr) disease -- it afects ruminants such as sheep --by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (ivri), Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh (see 'India develops ppr Vaccine, Down To Earth, July 31, 2005).
The vaccine was in fact developed by a research group from the Division of Virology, ivri , Mukteshwar. The group consisted of B P Srinivasa, R P Singh, Pronob Dhar and Rabi Ray and was doing its research under the leadership of S K Bandophadhyay. R K Singh, the present head of the division, was not associated with the R&D process.
Around the same time, a research group under the leadership of Palaniswamy took up work on the ppr vaccine from Madras Veterinary College, Chennai (Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, tanuvas) leading to the vaccine's development. It is therefore incorrect to say tanuvas is working on the vaccine now.
As the matter is sensitive, involving the patency rights of individuals concerned, I hope you will set right the record and dispel the confusion.
M P Yadav
Indian Veterinary Research Institute
Pick of the postbag
I read with interest 'What Dubey did' (Down To Earth, August 31, 2005) and subsequent comments of the Crop Care Federation of India (see 'Endosulphan controversy' Down To Earth, September 30, 2005). You are to be congratulated for raising the problem of health hazards due to endosulphan in Kerala.
As one involved for 20 years in r & d on eco-friendly measures for pest control at cbri, Roorkee, I have personally experienced that some scientists your article mentions have always had a soft corner for industry, for reasons better known to them. While industry naturally wishes to push its products, it is better -- I feel -- to live with pests than be exposed to dread pesticides. With pesticide usage, if there is no visible harm to the health and life of the present generation, the same will be experienced in the next. Further, endosulphan is not indispensable. There are many broad spectrum pesticides for those pests endosulphan attacks. However, an independent agency needs to evaluate the effect of spraying endosulphan on the environment in different climatic zones, and the impact on the health of local people.
On behalf of the villagers of Padre, Kerala, I thank Down To Earth for taking up our cause even amidst threatening and intimidating third rate letters. If they have some scientific arguments, these are always welcome. But trying to gag someone's point of view is a shame for a highly qualified person occupying the high position of chairperson. But I wonder: is it possible someone jealous of Raju Shroff might have written in his name to tarnish his image?
Down to Earth Replies
The public relations officer of the institute had given R K Singh's reference to the reporter. He also pointed out the reporter should consult M P Yadav regarding how the research work should be quoted. The latter told the reporter R K Singh could be mentioned as the team's leader. However, the paper the team published in Comparative Immunology, Microbiology & Infectious Diseases does show S K Bandopadhyay is the team leader.
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