Published: Friday 15 March 2002

Wild claims

This refers to the article 'Call of the wild' on rainforest festival (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 16, January 15, 2002). On the efforts made by Nature's Beckon with regard to conservation of rainforests in Assam, I wish to remark that the NGO should avoid becoming a 'paper tiger'. A considerable number of people had gathered at the festival but one of the main reasons for their attendance was the presence of Assam chief minister. Many villagers had come to meet him rather than witness the festival. Half the number of people present there, in fact, comprised security personnel and government officials, who had nothing to do with the festival. Here I would like to stress that what we perceive from outside might not be a true reflection of what is taking place inside.

Contrary to what is stated in the press releases, Nature's Beckon is not doing any substantial work on the conservation of rainforests at the grassroot level. There is no movement taking place in these forests as has been talked about in your article. Moreover, there are three forests divisions looking after different reserve forests in the area. Do you think the concerned authorities are managing them without knowing that they are rainforests or without mapping these areas? How could Nature's Beckon map this area and with what expertise? It has been well known that the area has rainforests. Their existence, therefore, is no 'discovery' on part of Nature's Beckon.

As a participant of the rainforest festival, I noticed that all the leading NGOs of the northeast were conspicuous by their absence. Naturally it is not possible to claim 'discoveries' of already known sites in the presence of these organisations, which one can easily do in front of our ignorant politicians, over enthusiastic journalists or foreign guests. I hope that NGOs like Nature's Beckon would 'work' hard for conservation of these forests in close coordination with the locals rather than claiming credit for false 'discoveries'.

Bordoloi Nagar, Assam...

Underground reality

Apropos your editorial 'Programme plugged' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 15, December 31, 2001) on the subject of harvesting rainwater. It will not be wrong to conclude that like most other government schemes launched from time to time, this is also a half-baked programme which does not carefully study the various implications. As mentioned in the editorial, "We have to recognise that just passing a law is not enough." None can deny the need for rainwater harvesting since the water requirements of the urban population far exceeds the capacity of municipalities to supply potable water. As a result, there is a great pressure on exploitation of the underground water in all areas leading to its fast depletion. Central Groundwater Authority is now trying to put a halt on this exploitation by getting all water pump sets registered in Delhi and other areas. But in view of the requirement of water, this order has remained on paper only. If the government is really serious about rainwater harvesting, then there should be a well thought out plan involving all the players including house owners.

Yojna Vihar, Delhi...

Birds on the brink

Birds are one of the best visible bioindication of the health of an ecosystem. A little change in the ecosystem can alter the behaviour, food habit and the entire population structure of these avian creatures. Today almost all the bird species are victims of urbanisation which has led to the loss of their habitat. There is a strong relationship between birds and trees. If we change tree species in an ecosystem, then the birds there will definitely suffer. I have witnessed changing lifesytle of birds due to selection of particular tree species for monoculture. I agree with C S Malhi in 'Unhearthed' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 14, December 15, 2001) that in order to protect birds with their respective tree species, better management practices are required.

In the last few years, I have noticed that the number of black kite (Milvus migrans), going up with an increase in the population of house crow (Corvus splendus). On the other hand, the population of garden birds namely red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), oriental magpie robin (Copsychus sularis), red vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), asian pied starling (Sturnus contra), common myna (Acridotheres tristis), common tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius) went down considerably in these years. Previously, these bird species were sighted frequently but are now becoming rare as a result of habitat loss. Most people today do not have open space in their houses. Those who do have, prefer to plant exotic flowering trees instead of the big trees. In the process, birds are deprived of their roosting and nesting sites. Alteration of trees or habitat can destroy birds' feeding and breeding ground. For example, a piece of land may appear to be useless but a close examination will reveal that there are a number of insect-feeding birds which use this site to secure food. During monsoon and post-monsoon period, the same land gets converted into a small waterbody, where many waterbirds come in search for food.

We have around 1,300 bird species from the Indian subcontinent, of which 130 species are globally threatened and enlisted as Indian Red Data bird species by BirdLife International (UK) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Now, for the protection of birds and their habitat, BNHS together with BirdLife International and RSPB -- another UK-based wildlife conservation organisation that takes action for wild birds and environment -- has launched Important Bird Area (IBA) programme, under which important bird areas are identified and protected.

Malda, West Bengal...

Waste segregation

We fully support the decision of our additional municipal commissioner A K Jain to make it mandatory upon Mumbai residents to segregate their wet and dry wastes. This will prevent overflow of community garbage bins and control air pollution as plastic and rubber would not be burnt at street corners. It will save our hard-earned money which is spent by the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) in transporting the mixed garbage to far-off places and our valuable resources as more items would be recycled. Moreover, it will provide gainful employment to rag-picker community.

Sion East, Mumbai...

Fish facts

In the cover story on asthma 'Gasping millions' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 16, January 15, 2002), the authors have brought out all the details of this age-old disease and nicely summed up its care and cure. However, half a page has been devoted to 'Faith-fry' without any comment and cautionary remark on this "miraculous" cure. Due to the nature of the disease, which causes a lot of hardship and stress, the patient becomes frustrated and willingly tries out drugs that claim to cure this debilitating disease. Unscrupulous elements take advantage of the situation and offer miraculous cures.

In Hyderabad, there are about 40 pharmacies manufacturing drugs, whose prescriptions include swallowing small live fish by an asthma patient. For a vegetarian patient, they use a piece of banana instead of a fish. The modus operandi of these pharmacies is to appoint agents posing as doctors to dispense these drugs. The agents take out advertisements containing information about the date and location of the asthma cure camps. Ignorant and unsuspecting patients flock to these camps in the hope finding a cure in this unusual treatment.

It is known to the authorities that these drugs are laced with harmful steroids. In spite of this, these gangs move from town to town, amass huge amounts of money and play with the lives of unsuspecting ignorant patients. Unemployed youth get unwittingly involved in such malpractices. It is our duty to spread a word against such malpractices and educate people about their consequences.


Apropos your article ' Right to fish' ( Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 16, January 15, 2002), our experience on reservoir fisheries from Multi-purpose River Valley Projects (MRVP) is dismal. This is largely due to strange ownership by the project authorities, who generally have no technical expertise in fisheries science, the stocking and re-stocking procedure and essential gear that is required for harvesting from reservoir. Yields actually hover around 10-15 per cent of the projected figure shown as the benefits of MRVP. As for Chilika, the right of the traditional fishermen have been taken away in the environ of globalisation in early 1990's. More than 90 primary cooperative fisheries have become defunct. Fish yield dropped by 80 per cent and fishermen's protests resulted in firing by police. The present policy of Orissa government is a welcome change along the line of recommendations made in 1997-98 in our "Integrated Management of Chilika".

Jodhpur park, Kolkata...

Peta's Pet

Dear Editor, Iam Ms.Yamini Kurani from Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Reserarch. you magazinen i reffered last 2years and really your magazine saw all the realities. But i want to ask one 1 Questions.really this Peta organisaton do some thing for animals? Because i have seen in the Deonar slaughter house. There are so many problems like animal transport cruel system, slautering the animals day to day.no any rules ragulations about the system. so many questions are. What doing this organisation in real? With regards, Yamini Kurani...

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