Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004


The article 'Towering Menace' (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 2, June 15, 2004) was an excellent expos of the havoc wreaked by cellphone companies on public health and environment blinded by their business interests. As a resident of Ajmer, Rajasthan, I am facing similar problems so far as cellphone towers are concerned.

I live in a densely populated colony where Hexacom India Limited has constructed a roof-top tower on the third floor of a building right in front of my house. The tower is about 80 feet high and approximately 5,000 kg in weight. We have filed a civil suit against the company and the owner of the building in Ajmer Session Court holding them guilty of public nuisance and demanding removal of the tower on safety grounds. For the time being the court has put a hold on the operation of the tower till further hearing.


Inviting trouble

Recently, there was a fire in an endosulfan factory belonging to Hindustan Pesticide Limited in Cochin, Kerala. Two things emerge from this incident. How can a pesticide manufacturing unit operate in a highly populated area? Endosulpan is a banned persistant organic pollutant, so what is the need to manufacture it in India? The company's statement that it is meant for export to Belgium is not tenable, as endosulfan is banned there. We should tighten our laws regarding the manufacture of pesticides in thickly populated areas. Or else, we might have to face another Bhopal.


Recycling prospects

The article 'Plastic avenue' (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 6, August 15, 2004) made for an interesting read. Like tobacco, plastics too do more harm than good and yet, like tobacco they are widely used. Thus, unwanted volumes of plastic detrimental to the environment begin to pile up. It is, therefore, no surprise that banning plastic has become such a popular practice in recent times.

While that is one way of tackling the crisis, yet another solution is to find means of recycling the existing waste. I attended a conference in Lusaka, Zambia, where the topic of discussion was, usage of waste plastic in the manufacture of ropes and building sheets suitable for roofing. Shredded plastic serves as a binder for mudwalls, while waste plastic sheets function as damp proof material in buildings. Recent research is also exploring possibilities of devising ways of using discarded plastic sheets as liners for earthen groundwater reservoirs used in collect rainwater.


Bullish endeavour

The Chattisgarh government's plans to procure 1,00,000 bulls for breeding cows and distributing to tribals (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 6, August 15, 2004) warrants attention of the Indian Council of Veterinary Research, Indian Veterinary Research Institute and National Dairy Research Institute and other veterinary experts. Breeding indigenous varieties (if any) with bulls procured in such large numbers and distributing mixed breed stocks among tribal families is known to have produced poor results in the long run. The government should consult concerned experts instead of fumbling in the dark.


Filling the blank

Apropos the article 'Common intent' (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 5, July 31, 2004), the maiden budget of the United Progressive Alliance covers certain important sectors of economic and social services, but excludes analysis of renewable energy and environment. Provision of renewable energy resources is an important pointer towards the government's attitude on sustainable development on the energy front. Budget provisions alone cannot ensure development of renewable energy; for this private participation is necessary. But the government has to play a key role as a facilitator. Compared to the provision made for the energy sector as a whole, as much as Rs 46,788 crore, budget allocation for renewable energy is only Rs 1087.5 crore, a mere 2 per cent of the total amount. Allocation in 2004-05 is the same as the amount initially set aside in 2003-04, but 25 per cent above the revised estimate of 2003-04. The decrease in expenditure by 25 per cent in 2003-04, with respect to allocation, is indicative of a lack of dynamism on the part of officials of the ministry of non-conventional energy resources.

In the power sector, renewable energy should be eligible for 10 per cent of allocation since in two plan periods, 10 per cent of addition in installed capacity of 1,100,000 mega watt is earmarked for renewable resources, given the fact that potentials have already been identified. It is necessary that the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, the financing agency for renewable energy resources, receives adequate budgetary support from the ministry in order to lend money to promoters of renewable energy at a low rate of interest. This will provide scope for competitive power generation at this nascent stage of growth.

Amongst the developing nations, India remains the most advanced so far as renewable energy is concerned. This position has to be maintained and it is hoped that the additional Rs 500 crore will lend a helping hand to the cause.


Inept remedy

It was with anguish that I read about the deaths of the elephants mowed down by speeding trains passing through the Rajaji National Park near Dehra Dun in the last 10 years. By way of rectification the railways ministry has suggested altering the route of the trains. However, there has been no mention of slowing down of trains. Due to massive human encroachments on the northern side of the park the elephants were forced to migrate to the south, wherein they fell prey to the trains. The stand taken by the ministry of environment and forests in this matter -- prohibiting human encroachment on the natural habitat of these animals -- should be enforced with greater rigidity.

frcf b22@sify.com...

Sounding the depths

The editorial 'Water riddles' (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 4, July 15, 2004) urges, "let's return to the dugwell." The solution, in my opinion, is too simplistic and overlooks several key issues. If the people of Kerala are indeed dependent upon private dugwells of depths varying between 5-50 metres (m), then their access to potable water supply cannot fall to 11-14 per cent just because the wells dry up in summer.

From the time the Decade programme actually came into force in Kerala in 1983, the norm adopted by the state government was one drinking water source within 500 m (it was 1,600 mt for the rest of the country). In that case, if the coverage is indeed 77-85 per cent, as per your assessment, people should still be able to access this drinking water source long after the dugwell at home has dried up.

One also finds it difficult to believe that there are dugwells in Kerala as deep as 50 m and they, too, dry up in summer. In fact, dugwells in Kerala are commonly shallow extending up to 15 mt. It is a coastal state and it is a well-known fact that coastal wells might turn saline but never dry up. Finding a viable solution to the groundwater problem would entail involvement of not just engineers but scientists conversant with the hydrology of groundwater. It is they who can recommend the desired location-specific solutions instead of promoting generalised solutions such as rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.

We live in times when elaborate water sharing for food production and domestic demands is on an expanding spree. Population is increasing, distribution spreading and lifestyle and crop choices are becoming increasingly water intensive. Dugwells cannot cater to all these demands, but they remain handy devices for groundwater use.


Pick of the post bag

Better safe than sorry
The explosion conducted at Parchu lake in Tibet was an undesirable exercise unleashing possibilities of flood in India. It is feared that other such explosions carried out in the future might unsettle rock formations thereby causing further damage to human lives. A safer and more viable alternative might be removal of excess water with the help of pipes and feeding the excess volumes underground.

STEP 1: Insert pipes into the lake and draw out water with the help of manually operated pumps. Ideally, diesel pumps should be avoided as their vibrations might have adverse effects.

STEP 2: After the water is well below the danger mark, pipes may be inserted 2 cm below the water level to remove incoming water from the lake.


Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.