Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

On paper

This refers to the article on paper (Down To Earth, September 30, 2005). While complimenting the writer for a balanced view on the issue, I would like to clarify on the comment "the 75,000 ha (hectare) figure quoted by itc appears far in excess of that required", that appears in the box with the story.

The arithmetic is correct. But due consideration has not been given to the fact that on an average only 20 tonnes per ha per year yield is achieved in areas where farm forestry has taken root, and that too, only for eucalyptus. In wastelands and degraded forestlands, such yields are not possible.

itc's work in biotechnology-based clonal plantations is specific to soil and agroclimatic conditions. New set of conditions will require different types of clones to be developed, which will take considerable time. Hence, itc has assumed lower yields than what it has achieved in Andhra Pradesh after 15 years of development work.

Finally, biodiversity considerations imply that about one-third of the allocated land will have to be retained in its natural condition. Certain non-pulpwood species will also be planted keeping in mind the requirement of local community.

I hope you will appreciate that these are valid considerations while working out land requirements.

Pradeep Dhobale

Seed struck

I am a farmer from the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Many farmers in the region have committed suicide. A public interest petition was filed on the issue but to no avail.

I feel that the reason behind the suicides is the terminator seeds which are being sold to us. These seeds (f1) give good yield but cross-pollination with local varieties is affecting the latter adversely.

If we save seeds from such hybrids and reuse them, we get sterile plants. So the farmers get very little yield if they sow f2 seeds of such hybrids or use f2 seeds being sold as f1.

The problem is becoming worse by the day as we cannot afford costly litigation. Many farmers don't understand the reasaon for the low yield and blame it on nature or fate.

Ram Kalaspurkar

Right oil

Apropos of the article,"Food for oil" (Down To Earth, October 31, 2005), I would agree that choosing a healthy cooking oil is far from easy. This is because some constituents of every oil are good and some bad.

Oil is not a perfect food, but nor can it be removed from our diet entirely. I have some suggestions:

Energy from fat/oil intake should not exceed 30 per cent of our caloric requirement

The different constituents of oil such as saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, should be present in almost equal proportion

More than one oil should be used, providing the body a greater variety of minor constituents.

Jaydev Jana
Rai Charan Ghosh Lane,

Water mismanaged

I fully endorse the views expressed in the editorial "Real India needs real answers", (Down To Earth, October 31, 2005). The mismanagement of water and waste treatment in Pali is indeed disheartening.

Effluent treatment plants can be constructed economically but their operational costs are prohibitive for small-scale industries. Common effluent treatment plants can be viable for Pali's industries, which openly flout pollution control norms.

A two-pronged approach needs to be adopted. First, effective treatment of the effluent. Existing effluent treatment technologies include chemical and biological treatment. The escalating costs of chemicals has fuelled a need to develop alternative technologies.

Second, recycling of water needs to be propagated widely. Recycling is driven by factors like availability, cost, quality of water and also by the pressure from pollution control boards and local bodies. Recycled water in areas where water is a scarce commodity can work out to be a cheaper option than using raw water.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done, when technology has to be coupled with feasibility. Membrane technology to treat effluents has made rapid strides over the last decade and has been widely used in water recycling plants. However, it is still in its nascent stage where cost competitiveness is concerned.


Petrol additive

I was disappointed that Down To Earth did not use the information I had e-mailed on Indian Oil Corporation (ioc) importing methyl tertiary butyl ether (mtbe). Stories like "Carcinogenic French fries" and "Cattle pollute San Joaquin air", which do not relate to India, seemed to have had a higher priority in the recent issue.

In the meantime, I found from Indian Petrocom news that ioc had imported more mtbe during May 2005.

It would be better to raise the matter of the end use for mtbe proposed to be imported now rather than after the environmental harm is done, by invoking the right to information. The customs department in Mumbai will have a record of the landings.

D V Subramanian
RA Puram Second Main Rd

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Pick of the Postbag

Eye opener
Your cover story on the Mumbai floods (Down To Earth, September 30, 2005) is an eye opener for policy-makers and developers. But who is going to listen?

If one looks at the geography and landscape of old and new Mumbai, it is apparent that the area reclaimed to accommodate the growing industries/population over the years is enormous. Reclamation has changed the entire drainage system, land-use pattern and natural vegetation.

If one superimposes the present concrete structures of Mumbai as seen from Google Earth landsat image on this map, one wonders whether this island can sustain such a developmental trajectory. In fact, the islands were formed due to several geological factors and are traversed by several faults.

The structures on the reclaimed land can never be as stable as those constructed over natural land. In the event of any calamity, rescue operations cannot be carried out with equal ease due to non-availability of space for rescue vehicles to move. The only escape route for the island is the Thane Bridge. I don't know how many people realise this fact. I hope the planners and builder's lobby do. The realisation should come from 'within' the industrial and financial communities and should not be taught by the scientific community. I wonder, in the event of an earthquake, can these structures on the reclaimed land withstand the shock?

D chandrasekharam


Are fruit labels harmless?
It is fashionable these days to label fruits. But is this practice harmless?

I have noticed two things. First, it takes vigorous effort to rub off the gum used to stick the label. Second, on peeling labelled fruits, one finds a spot close to where the label was stuck.

V C Nanda
Sector 16, Chandigarh...

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