Letters

 
Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

PICK OF THE POSTBAG

Back to basics
I write to inform readers of dte about two new innovations that nari (Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute) has been working on. One, a lantern we call 'Noorie', and two, an electric cycle rickshaw.

Around 80 per cent of India's rural households use only hurricane kerosene lanterns for lighting. With unreliable electricity supply, even the remaining 20 per cent use kerosene lighting occasionally. There are guesstimates that close to 100 million such lanterns exist in the country. It is in this context that 'Noorie' has been designed and developed.

It is a pressurised mantle lantern, which produces light output of 1250-1300 lumens (equivalent to that from a 100 W light bulb). This multi-fuel lantern can run on both diesel and ethyl alcohol, producing similar light output.

It is superior to the existing pressurised kerosene lanterns (Petromax) available in the market. It produces light output equivalent to that from Petromax lamps, but consumes only 60 per cent of the kerosene that Petromax requires, and needs about one-third the pressure used in Petromax. The Noorie lantern also doubles up as a cooking device. The estimated cost of this lantern is about Rs 250.

The other innovation, an electric cycle rickshaw is built to combat the increasing pollution levels in most cities today, especially those in developing countries. The main reasons are the air and noise pollution caused by transport vehicles, especially petrol-powered two and three wheelers. An electric cycle rickshaw could provide a non-polluting and silent transport system for urban and rural India. We have developed three types of rickshaws: a) improved pedal cycle rickshaw (ipcr); b) motor-assisted pedal rickshaw (mapr); and c) a completely battery driven rickshaw called elecsha TM.

These rickshaws provide an environment-friendly, energy-efficient and cost-effective transport system, and could replace the existing autorickshaws. Besides reducing pollution, these rickshaws could also provide large-scale employment. Besides, the existing rickshaws are very poorly designed, and take a heavy toll on the health of a rickshaw puller.

The existing cycle rickshaw has hardly changed since it was introduced in 1930s and 1940s in India. The gearing and mechanical advantage of the pedal are very poor. Hence, the rickshaw puller has to work very hard to climb even a slight slope. The braking system is also very poor, with only front brakes on the rickshaw. Similarly, the seating arrangement is very uncomfortable and the aerodynamic drag of the system is very high.

It is, therefore, humanly degrading to pull the existing inefficient cycle rickshaw. At present, rickshaw manufacturing is a footpath industry, with no quality control, and there are as many rickshaw designs as there are cities in which they ply. These rickshaws are so poorly made that they have to be replaced completely in a couple of years. The physical and financial burden on the rickshaw puller is huge. The need for an improved design is, therefore, self-evident.

It is also a fact that most cities in developing countries are very congested, with narrow roads. In most cases, it is not practicable to consider broadening these roads. For such roads, non-polluting vehicles could provide a very attractive transport system.

For more information on these innovations, please visit these pages:
http://nariphatan.virtualave.net/lantern.htm
http://nariphal-tan.virtualave.net/atm00009.htm

ANIL K RAJVANSHI
anilrajvanshi@vsnl.com...

Clue to development

The subject of renewables has been dealt with from a number of perspectives. However, one is left with the impression that the situation is not very encouraging. The seriousness of the issue of renewables development without an adequate support structure is, in fact, mainly eclipsed by the euphoria created by policy-making bodies, and also continuous faulty projections, which may be far from reality. I am sure the report 'Renewables deserted?' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 23; April 30) could be strengthened by publishing more revealing insights in future articles. It is this awareness alone that will reduce India's almost total dependence onfossil fuels.

While there is no doubt that costs must be brought down for the benefit of all, the present focus of development is wrong. The change of focus from subsidy-driven development to generation/utility-based actions will totally change the present scene. At the same time, government agencies need to work together on a common agenda for the development of renewables. This cohesion, when driven with common purpose and support structure, will pave way for future growth.

A S KARANTH
askaranth@bflpune.com...

Political orphans

Congratulations on your in-depth analysis of the grand gift of poor governance in the cover story on gross nature product (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 24; May 15). I would like to further illustrate the case with the example of Latur, which is also the home-pitch of ex-Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil. The only progress that resulted from the earthquake rehabilitation that lasted five years, and cost Rs 1,200 crore, was the construction of borewells and sugarcane factories. In 1985, Latur district had two sugar factories. Today, seven sugar units are already operational in the district, and four more will start next year. In a radius of 50 km, there are seven more industries.

The result is that we go 180-200 metres down for water, as almost 90 per cent of the sugarcane farms are irrigated by borewells. This summer is a nightmare for all towns and villages in the area, although it receives 60-75 inches of rain. However, rainwater harvesting continues to be a politically orphaned idea (Anil Agarwal's quote on this is the universal truth for India). As water levels plummet, and fast, farmers unwillingly detach themselves from sugarcane and the search for an appropriate crop continues.

ATUL DEULGAONKAR
atulcd@yahoo.com...

Wild life

It was a pleasure to read 'Future jeopardised' (Down To Earth, Vol 11, No 1; May 31). Union health minister C P Thakur has announced plans to breed musk deer for medicinal purposes. Musk cures asthma, epilepsy, hysteria and other disorders. It can also fetch up to Rs 2,50,000 per kg in the international market. However, it is almost impossible to extract musk without killing the animal. Thakur's plans have also drawn flak from, among others, his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi. "The health ministry has no power to breed any wild animals," she said.

Captive breeding experiments have faced difficulties, and breeding has been largely unsuccessful due to insufficient scientific knowledge. R L Singh, principal chief conservator of forest, Uttar Pradesh, says, "Even if this experiment succeeds, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 1991, completely prohibits the use of wildlife products." Animal breeding programmes are necessary only when there is a necessity to increase the number of specific species. Humans must step into this area only to help conserve the species that are in danger of extinction. We must not exploit wild animals for our own gains. I hope our government will take steps to help wild animals, instead of exploiting them for commercial or other gains.

K MANIKANDAN
sakayamooty@rediff.com...

At what cost?

I am writing from Vadodara, Gujarat. The National Highway State Road Management (nhsrm) division roads and building department plans to chop away 5,000 trees, some of which are over a 100 years old, to widen the Padra-Jambusar highway from seven metres to 10 metres. The social forestry division has opposed this step. International consultants have also stressed the environmental damage that the project is likely to cause. A number of steps that could help save the trees were suggested. The authorities, though, have paid no attention. Should 5,000 trees be chopped away in a land facing eternal drought? If this issue is highlighted by dte, I am sure it will make a difference.

TANIYA VAIDYA
taniyavaidya@yahoo.com...

Building nests

Due to the rapid increase in urbanisation, natural holes that birds nest in are on the decline. Delhibird (Northern India Bird Network) plans to put up about 100 nest-boxes this year in various places in and around Delhi. We put six nest-boxes in Sultanpur yesterday. Two members of Delhibird have sponsored these six boxes. Any member can sponsor a nest-box. The member's name will be on the corner of the nest-box, and the member could then monitor his/her nest-box. You could even put up nest-boxes in your garden/terrace. We make them in two designs -- one for parakeets, brahmany mynas, barbets, magpie robins and the other for doves, owls and pigeons. Those interested are welcome to contact me at the email address below.

NIKHIL DEVASAR
nik@delhibird.org...

Well-intentioned, but...

I am happy to see that Down To Earth has done an extensive story on the ban on felling, and its implication for Northeast India 'Logjam' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 20; March 15). The implications have been well-covered from all the states. The only thing that irks me is that the author of the story has criticised only the bureaucracy for not being able to take advantage of a very laudable judgment by the Supreme Court in the Godavarman case. The intention of the court is certainly commendable, but the said judgment, to my mind, was largely impractical.

The author has highlighted the role of local communities in forest management. I certainly concur with the author in this matter, and also strongly believe that traditional village institutions would have perhaps dealt with the issue in a better manner. But unfortunately, with the erosion of value systems, even among the members of the ethnic communities, customary laws and traditional practices can no longer ensure sustainable forest management everywhere. Traditional village councils are losing the authority they once commanded in society.

It is slightly unfair to solely blame the state governments of these seven states for their inefficiency in handling the situation following several interim orders in the Godavarman case. If the court was so convinced about peoples' role in conservation of forests, there should have been a specific reference in the court order (or in the recommendations of the subsequent committees) that seeks reform in laws. Statutory laws relating to central conservation and resource use should be changed to accommodate customary laws, indigenous knowledge and practices in resource management.

The high-powered committee formed by the court and the expert committees formed by the state governments have only state government officials as members. They include no local community members. The court has not made any provision to empower local communities and traditional institutions to effectively manage areas that are traditionally held by the community. Central legislations and state institutions are too overwhelming to provide space for customary laws and traditional institutions to operate.

This is in spite of the fact that the Constitution, under Article 371 and the Sixth Schedule, has made special provision for the Northeastern states, with respect to recognition of village councils, social practices and customary laws. One of the reasons for state governments being ineffective in their functioning is that the officials in the state government are normally from other parts of the country. These officials have hardly any understanding of local customs and usage, and little respect for traditional knowledge, owing to their conventional training in forest management.

The system of tree-permits was introduced in Arunachal Pradesh with the specific purpose of helping the economically deprived people of the state. But with such valuable resources at their disposal, if the people go without proper health care and education, it would be unfair. Hence, felling of trees via the tree-permit system was introduced. The Supreme Court, by scrapping this system, has only further deprived the economically poor, although resource-rich people of development. The economically well-off and powerful classes who actually own the sawmills, veneer mills and plywood factories, have other ways of meeting their requirements. Although it seems that bureaucrats were responsible for issuing tree-permits, it was actually the local politicians who pressurised the forest bureaucracy to allot permits, sometimes even beyond the permissible limit.

The Supreme Court needs to find more creative and meaningful ways of assimilating people's knowledge, indigenous folk laws and strengths of traditional institutions into the formal structures.This will blend the best of both towards more effective.

No ban on grazing

This refers to Chandra Prakash Bhatt's article 'Paradise Under Fire' (Down To Earth, Vol 11, No 2; June 15), wherein the author wrote that the beautiful valley of flowers is caught in a strange controversy. It seems that the conservation attempts in the region are proving to be the problem rather than the solution. The weed Polygonum polystachyum has never been at the centre of a controversy. If anything, the weed has only increased in numbers since the ban was imposed.

The author faults Forest Research Institute (fri) scientists for advocating grazing in the valley. Grazing has been banned in the area ever since the valley was declared a national park. Scientists from fri have recommended controlled grazing in the park in order to maintain biological diversity. In the absence of any kind of grazing, opportunist species may take advantage of the available resources, thus suppressing the growth of other plants. Noted environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt also supports the view that the ban on grazing ought to be lifted (The Indian Express, April 21, 1993). What is required is to determine the carrying capacity of the park, and allow grazing in a controlled manner. A blanket ban on grazing is not a viable solution.

J D NEGI
Head, ecology and environment division
Forest Research Institute
Dehra Dun
...

Tibetan cure for cancer

A study conducted by the Cancer Society of India has revealed that Tibetans living in the northern hill station of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh are highly prone to cancer of the liver, stomach and the food pipe. Suraj Verma, president of the Cancer Society of India, which is holding a cancer camp in the region, attributes this to the fact that the Tibetans consume mutton without cooking it adequately. He also noticed that a number of them consumed stale meat.

Verma says that the well-known Tibetan Medical Centre at Dharamsala and the Cancer Society of India will work jointly to prevent and controlcancer. He says the Tibetan Centre has agreed to "incorporate indigenous Tibetan medicine in the treatment of cancer". Interestingly, experts believe that Tibetan medicine is highly effective in the treatment of cancer, helping especially with the discomfort and pain.

BALDEV S CHAUHAN
baldev_s_chauhan@rediffmail.com...

Endosulfan is deadliest to humans

Dear Editor, I found your article about endosulfan in environment of Kerala. UNEP already listed that endosulfan belongs to POPs (Persistant Organic Pollutants)among another 11 compounds. It is deadliest to humans and cause neurotoxic and teratogenic effects to humans It persists in the environment more than 7-10 years after ban. I strongly encourage your intention to ban this chemicals in India. Now i am working on all 12 POPs in global scale. I wish you all the best. With Sincere Regards, Kurunthachalam Senthil Kumar Technical Scientist, Shimadzu-Techno Research INC. Japan ...

Sociology

I am writing this letter from Kasaragod district of kerala. We the people of Kasaragod are very thankful to you and your esteemed organization for revealing the drama played by the industry behind endosulfan tragedy. We congratulate you for this process also. I am the Secretary of Kasaragod District Environmental forum in Malayalam Kasaragod Jilla Paristhithi Samithi, a NGO working in Kasargod Distrrict. Now we are mainly concentrating our work on Pery of Our district.Perya is also one of the affected panchayat. We are arranging a Public convention on 17th of August against the State Governments decision. So we are very keen to invite M/s Sunita Narain to attend the convention and to do the key note adress. But our problem is we are facing lack of funds also. So for us it is not possible to pay any amount for your conveyance. We request you to attend the convention. We hope you will attend the convention with your own coast. In the convention all the people from each house at Perya, all the School and college students in this area will participate.Around more than thousand people will participate in the convention. The speakers of the convention are Dr.K P Sathishchandran, Director, INTACH, Trivandrum, Mr.C Jayakumar,Thanal, Trivandrum etc. So please consider this as an invitation and request letter and once again we are requesting you to attend the convention. One more request in all your articles relating to Endosulfan tragedy always you are forgetting to highlight a lady. Her ame is M K Leelakumari Amma, we are calling her as rachael Carson of India. I am expecting a positive reply from you at the earliest.Within two days. Thank you, Regards, Sudheer. ...

Decimal/Meteric System

Living in US for 28 years, coming from the developing nation - INDIA which adopted Decimal Currency in 1957, I usually think about a question (and asked so many people, putting it on the web for the first time) - How many people in US be unemployed, if 1 penny be added to each item price (during data entry using any pricing tool-computers/price markers etc). Adding one penny will change the price from $2.99 to $3.00 for which the data entry person has to use only one key stroke (KS) instead of minimum of 3 key strokes if decimal position is automated. If 99 is also automated, in that case it will be 1 (KS) instead of 2. Over all, minimum of 50% (KS) are saved in this example. For $399.99 we may have 3 KS for 4,0,0 instaed of 4 or 5 so minimum of 25% KS saved. Typically, majority of consumer items (for major middle class population) lie between $0.99 to $999.99 (intelligent realistic assumption). You can see the enormity of the (KS) savings if we use true meteric/decimal system. Specifically, in monetary systems, typically the value of fractions is meaningless, its appropriate to make the system more efficient by using whole numbers or at the most convenient fractions (multiples of 5). For example, Indian Currency - The value of 5 paisa is worth how much? To put a price on a BATA shoe like Rs495.95; instead if it is 500 its less (KS) - 3(KS) [or 2 if 00 is atandardised] instaed of 5(KS) and the difference Rs 4.05 is absorbed at so many places of data entry for one product. You may have the price 495, with 3(KS) instead of 5(KS). Since it is multiple of 5, it is convenient for customers as well when they need to do the arithmatic. Even, to your subscription prices you use 99's instead of 00's. I do not think if anyone will obeject to Rs 400 instead of Rs 399. When the meteric currency started in 1957, we used to have pricing in multiples of 5 excepting few things like for food items some places we used odd number of paisas, in those days 1 paisa did have some purchasing power. This e-mail may be interesting to some of the maths students for research or as such help some one developing pricing techniques. Once one of my friend's stding at IIT, Kanpur told me about one his Mech Engg professor giving them an interesting exercise - On a bullock driven cart, there is a wooden post hanging at the back of the cart (used for holding/supporting the cart horizontal when stopped). WHen the cart is in motion, this hanging pole goes into motion of its own, something like a pendulam. The exercise was to find the equation of this motion. ...

ecology

dear madam please publish topics related toecological education in dian context...

Sociology

I am writing this letter from Kasaragod district of kerala. We the people of Kasaragod are very thankful to you and your esteemed organization for revealing the drama played by the industry behind endosulfan tragedy. We congratulate you for this process also. I am the Secretary of Kasaragod District Environmental forum in Malayalam Kasaragod Jilla Paristhithi Samithi, a NGO working in Kasargod Distrrict. Now we are mainly concentrating our work on Pery of Our district.Perya is also one of the affected panchayat. We are arranging a Public convention on 17th of August against the State Governments decision. So we are very keen to invite M/s Sunita Narain to attend the convention and to do the key note adress. But our problem is we are facing lack of funds also. So for us it is not possible to pay any amount for your conveyance. We request you to attend the convention. We hope you will attend the convention with your own coast. In the convention all the people from each house at Perya, all the School and college students in this area will participate.Around more than thousand people will participate in the convention. The speakers of the convention are Dr.K P Sathishchandran, Director, INTACH, Trivandrum, Mr.C Jayakumar,Thanal, Trivandrum etc. So please consider this as an invitation and request letter and once again we are requesting you to attend the convention. One more request in all your articles relating to Endosulfan tragedy always you are forgetting to highlight a lady. Her ame is M K Leelakumari Amma, we are calling her as rachael Carson of India. I am expecting a positive reply from you at the earliest.Within two days. Thank you, Regards, Sudheer. ...

A mother's love

Dear Editor: This is with reference to the article entitled "A mother's love" about Thimmakka who planted and nurtured trees in Magadi taluk. When most of the articles related to the environment that we read are downright depressing, It is heartening to read about what one woman could do. Thank you for bringing to light "a woman of the trees:Thimakka" from India. Would it be possible for me to contact the author of the article to see if I can help monetarily in any way? Thank you K.Shashidhar ...

subscription

I am Architect planner, presently working with Genesys international corporation (GIS) company. I have though your home page applied for the subscription. I have opted for transaction of money through draft. But I have no clue how I am suppose to post it to you. Let me know the details Thank you Waiting for your reply Harshit S Lakra ...

Endosulfan is deadliest to humans

Dear Editor, I found your article about endosulfan in environment of Kerala. UNEP already listed that endosulfan belongs to POPs (Persistant Organic Pollutants)among another 11 compounds. It is deadliest to humans and cause neurotoxic and teratogenic effects to humans It persists in the environment more than 7-10 years after ban. I strongly encourage your intention to ban this chemicals in India. Now i am working on all 12 POPs in global scale. I wish you all the best. With Sincere Regards, Kurunthachalam Senthil Kumar Technical Scientist, Shimadzu-Techno Research INC. Japan ...

endosulfan

Congratulations for publishing this type of article....

Decimal/Meteric System

Living in US for 28 years, coming from the developing nation - INDIA which adopted Decimal Currency in 1957, I usually think about a question (and asked so many people, putting it on the web for the first time) - How many people in US be unemployed, if 1 penny be added to each item price (during data entry using any pricing tool-computers/price markers etc). Adding one penny will change the price from $2.99 to $3.00 for which the data entry person has to use only one key stroke (KS) instead of minimum of 3 key strokes if decimal position is automated. If 99 is also automated, in that case it will be 1 (KS) instead of 2. Over all, minimum of 50% (KS) are saved in this example. For $399.99 we may have 3 KS for 4,0,0 instaed of 4 or 5 so minimum of 25% KS saved. Typically, majority of consumer items (for major middle class population) lie between $0.99 to $999.99 (intelligent realistic assumption). You can see the enormity of the (KS) savings if we use true meteric/decimal system. Specifically, in monetary systems, typically the value of fractions is meaningless, its appropriate to make the system more efficient by using whole numbers or at the most convenient fractions (multiples of 5). For example, Indian Currency - The value of 5 paisa is worth how much? To put a price on a BATA shoe like Rs495.95; instead if it is 500 its less (KS) - 3(KS) [or 2 if 00 is atandardised] instaed of 5(KS) and the difference Rs 4.05 is absorbed at so many places of data entry for one product. You may have the price 495, with 3(KS) instead of 5(KS). Since it is multiple of 5, it is convenient for customers as well when they need to do the arithmatic. Even, to your subscription prices you use 99's instead of 00's. I do not think if anyone will obeject to Rs 400 instead of Rs 399. When the meteric currency started in 1957, we used to have pricing in multiples of 5 excepting few things like for food items some places we used odd number of paisas, in those days 1 paisa did have some purchasing power. This e-mail may be interesting to some of the maths students for research or as such help some one developing pricing techniques. Once one of my friend's stding at IIT, Kanpur told me about one his Mech Engg professor giving them an interesting exercise - On a bullock driven cart, there is a wooden post hanging at the back of the cart (used for holding/supporting the cart horizontal when stopped). WHen the cart is in motion, this hanging pole goes into motion of its own, something like a pendulam. The exercise was to find the equation of this motion. ...

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