Published: Monday 15 March 2004

Conceptions and misconceptions

We are concerned about your magazine's continued tirade against Endosulfan, seen again in the article 'Justified text' (Down To Earth, Vol 12, No 15, December 31, 2003). As was brought to your notice earlier, your campaign against Endosulfan arises from biased, incorrect, unscientific information. The report by nioh, Ahmedabad is also fundamentally flawed and is founded on faulty hypothesis as listed below:

It has now been confirmed that Endosulfan had been used in the ecosystem of Padre (exposed area) as well as Meenja Panchayat (unexposed area). Thus the so-called comparative epidemiological study stands on wrong foundations. nioh was not aware of this fact until the pesticide industry wrote to them after the first report was completed. This could explain why your final report (in January 2002) differed from the first report (in February 2001).

The students of Padre village (exposed) were less mature to the students of Meenja Panchayat area (control). It is commonsense that sexual maturity of students of 12+ age group will be less developed than the ones of 13+ age group.

As regards nioh finding Endosulfan residues in blood, water and soil, we had already written to nioh listing out various flaws. But nioh did not respond.

Your article states, "Curiously, the very research that ehp has thought fit to print was severely criticised by a section of the Indian scientific community." If ehp has published an article, it does not attain immunity from criticism by the Indian scientific community. We value the decisions of the expert committee appointed by the government of India. We also strongly object to your statement, "fresh doubts have also been cast on the integrity of expert committee..."

Executive Secretary
Endosulphan Manufacturers and Formulators Welfare Association

DOWN TO EARTH REPLIES: The Endosulphan Manufacturers and Formulators Welfare Association (EMFA), in a desperate bid to protect the profits of those it represents, has decided to indulge in rhetoric, overlooking sound scientific details. Faced with lack of issues to push its propaganda, EMFA continues to harp on old issues, which have been answered many times.

As far as findings of the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad are concerned, they have been proved correct in various scientific fora and do not need approval from a pesticide industry body.What is strange is that the language that the pesticide industry uses to cast doubts on the research is the very same language that was used by the Dubey committee. Is this coincidental?

And it is indeed very amusing that time and again it is the pesticide industry, which comes out in open support of O P Dubey, head of the expert committee. If the committee was so correct in its findings, one wonders why not even a single scientist has taken up the cudgels till date. It is pertinent to note that people, who had been part of the deliberations in the committee, have raised questions on the integrity of certain members. "The only purpose was to protect the chemical (Endosulphan), people's health could go to hell," commented one insider. Importantly, a clear distinction has to be made between scientists and industry-supported scientists.

The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation reported in Mathrubhoomi, Kerala's Malayalam daily (December 27, 2003), the pollution hazards that Endosulphan caused. This Persistent Organic Pesticide (pop) causes mutations in the genes, transmitting the hazards for generations. P.

Vicious Circle

The editorial 'Another dismissal is possible' (Down To Earth, Vol 12, No 18, February 15, 2004) is an effective response to water and power privatisation, bringing to light the pros and cons of the issue. Under the garb of helping the poor, continued subsidies would benefit the rich, while the poor would be fated to a life of inadequate services and higher costs. Inaccessibility to clean water is a preventable sin but is most certainly the greatest cause for death and disease in the world. What's causing this obstacle is not lack of money or technology but rather inefficiency in managing resources and lack of transparency of the system. And non-governmental organisations, who work at reforming the society, and those that normally advocate for the poor, are also to blame for the current policies.


Your editorial rightly said that we need to hone our language, which also means to be definite about what we mean. A friend who reported on the World Social Forum (wsf) observed that progressive ideas were well received but on the other hand the opposition seemed never short of censure. Language here plays a vital role. In the us too, the right wing Republicans use key words and phrases to capture the voter's attention. With such a strategy in tow, it's little wonder that George Bush and his team seem to win the people's favour.

Fairfax, California

Your comments have pointed in the right direction of implementation, rather than rhetoric, for change to happen. The wsf carried with it a leftist view of anti-privatisation, which needs to be reviewed keeping in mind the social and political realities. That's the challenge that lies before a movement such as this. Winning therefore is when the holistic vision defeats the present economic circumspection of the cynics. Organic marketing today comes along with a certification system that is purely an extension of the European Union's bureaucratic policies to make the movement elitist. The challenge lies in shaking off this hegemony and making pure food and water available to all. Finally, being affirmative and moving forward with a positive outlook is a way finding success. We would need to work at deepening the processes of change.


The other way

Rainwater harvesting is a much peddled conservation strategy. It involves not just collecting and utilising ground water but also replenishing ground water. This means that a fair amount of river water must flow into the sea, which may not always be possible. Segregating wastewater and recycling the same can give a higher success ratio than rainwater harvesting. As done at some garbage disposal units, segregating wastewater would require reworking the drainage and plumbing systems. Sinks, washing machines and bathrooms can have two drainage pipes for green or blue water, with a simple plug to block the drain not in use and a separate plumbing for water closets (wc).

Grey water from households are classified into, broadly, three categories. Green water from the kitchen and bathroom contains biodegradable matter which when collected in a sedimentation tank can overflow into a waterlogged grassy patch. After bio-filtration, the water can be collected in a tank for gardening, farming and flushing wcs.

Blue water contains detergents or non-biodegradable matter. The water can be treated effectively to neutralise the chemicals and make it safe for discharge or use.

Black water from wc usage (also called dark green water) can be treated in the same manner as green water but well away from habitation. The clarified water can be used for farming.

For such efforts, besides initial infrastructure costs, one would need to work only at the pumps to lift water. This system will reduce the strain on providing water from current sources and would prevent our rivers from contamination, and for all its worth, is feasible.


Illustrations say it all

I am a Down To Earth reader from a small village Jamalpur Maan Pota, Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh. I am impressed with the cartoons and illustrations depicted in the articles. These convey the message directly, making it easy for even an uneducated person to understand complex issues. Rustam Vania's 'Comment' is worth a special mention. It always gives food for thought. The cartoon in Gobar Times too, is unique. Pandit Gobar Ganesh is a character par excellance.


Mysterious death

Though arid, the Great Rann of Kachchh, (grk) in western Gujarat is a famous tourist spot during winters (October/November). It receives flamingos from Russia, Siberia and other continents and these guests stay till the beginning of summer (March/April), when their breeding season is complete.

What shocked environmentalists recently was when 150 flamingos and three pelicans were found dead around the Rann border near Shirani Vandh and Amrapur villages of Rapar taluka, near the north tip of Kachchh. As this area is only a narrow strip and is an extended part of grk, the estimated number of these species could be higher.

Tests conducted at the Veterinary College of Anand proved negative for any bacterial disease or cause.

Researchers speculate the probable reason for the unusual communal death could be over crowding, nutrition deficiency or unfavourable climatic conditions. Some members of the veterinary team and the first Forensic Science Laboratory reported that the death could have been due to the crystallisation of salt contents in the body tissues, which hinder every biological process essential of an organism.

Currently in Kachchh, while people bury the remains of these magnificent species, vets and bird lovers are trying to crack the mystery of this mass death.

Member (Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat)
Anand, Gujarat

The corruption pest

What arises above all in the Joint Parliamentary Committee's decision on cola companies is the laxity in implementing strict regulatory norms in the country. More than the pesticides and chemicals, one would find the chief pollutant in today's society is corruption. In a place such as the us, regulatory systems are managed by sincere people, thus optimising their economic potential. While in our country, any form of regulatory machinery fails to make an impact because we are beset with organised corruption and lack the political will to eradicate it. How can the common man feel safe in such a situation? You should look at corruption as a potent pollutant in the environment. You may not be able to eradicate corruption but you can create awareness as you did in the pesticide residue case.

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: We wish to thank our readers for your overwhelming response to the Joint Parliamentary Committee's decision on the cola companies. We unfortunately cannot carry all the letters sent to us....

Quote Unquote

With reference to 'Aligarh' (Down To Earth, Vol 12, No 13, November 30, 2003) the reporter Nidhi Jamwal has quoted me, saying, "Rajeev Upadhyay, the regional Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) officer told me that the city was sitting on a time bomb, which could explode any moment." I never said that in my meeting with her. It may have been another person's quote erroneously attributed to me. Hope you would look into the matter.

Regional Officer
Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board

DOWN TO EARTH REPLIES: Nidhi Jamwal (correspondent, Down To Earth) and Ruhani Kaur (photographer, Down To Earth) met Rajeev Upadhyay at his office in Aligarh, where they discussed the pollution levels in Aligarh. He also provided important facts and figures which were used in Down To Earth. The meeting was unfortunately not reported in the copy, but we stand by whatever has been written in the story. Upadhyay himself had pointed out that the UPPCB is unable to check the many illegal factories functioning in Aligarh. And that they had sent closure orders to these factories, which were not taken seriously. Hence, the city is sitting on a time bomb, which can explode anytime....

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