Letters

 
Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Pick of the Postbag

In tune with the times
I read your editorial "Of forests and wealth" (Down To Earth, vol 11, no 5; July 31 2002) with great interest. Please accept my compliments for proposing and pushing for a new way of looking at ecofriendly paper. We at itc Ltd concur with you that the only way of creating sustainable wood markets is by providing farmers with the necessary economic stimulus to promote industrial wood plantations on their private wastelands as a cash crop. We are also happy to note that your proposal for a sustainable green future vindicates our own efforts of the past few years in this regard.

The procurement of industrial timber exclusively from sustainable sources, thus reducing the pressure on public forests, is an integral part of our long-term business plan. In order to achieve this objective in the next 10 years, we have been following a two-pronged strategy:

Our farm forestry programme was initiated in 1992-1993, under which we have been encouraging farmers to create plantations on their surplus lands and wastelands by making available high-yielding clonal planting stock suitable for the paper and pulp industry at subsidised rates. So far, we have reached out to about 2,300 farmers with 10.6 million clonal stock covering 5,300 hectares (ha). The targets under this model are being stepped up significantly in the coming years.

In the year 2000, we began to examine ways of designing an afforestation model that would simultaneously endeavour to (a) tackle problems of endemic poverty of smallholders through significant increases in farm incomes and generation of employment; and (b) meet the needs of timber for our paper and pulp business. We are happy to inform you that since January 2001, we have embarked on a model of social forestry that targets poor tribal families and addresses itself to the two objectives outlined above. In the next four years, we plan to bring 5,000 ha of private wastelands under plantations at an annual rate of 1,000 ha. It will cover about 6,000 tribal households directly, and another 2,500 indirectly through employment generation.

There are a few features of this programme that are worth noting:

The lands that are being brought under plantations are private wastelands that have been with these households for generations, but who have not had the financial resources to make these lands productive. Mindful of food-security issues, we are extra vigilant that land currently under foodgrain production is not diverted to such plantations.

The main plank of our project is building of capacities at the grassroots level in order to initiate a virtuous cycle of sustainable development. With the help of our partner non-governmental organisations (ngos), we can identify households owning wastelands that they are unable to cultivate. We organise them into village-level Vanikaran Samitis and ensure that there is equal representation of women. They are first given intensive training in developmental issues, formation of micro-credit groups, managing accounts and maintenance of documentation. Once these groups start functioning well and autonomously, we embark on intensive training in the management of plantations and sylvicultural practices. They are also taken on exposure trips to successful private and government plantations. Our long-term objective is to federate these village samitis into mandal and then a district level organisation of timber growers, which will act as the main vehicle of development of these tribal villages.

Given the economic vulnerability of such hou.

More on endosulfan

On behalf of the Australian Environmental Health Groups, I completely support the views expressed in Down To Earth on the danger to human health from exposure to endosulfan. I would suggest also, based on our experience, that adults exposed to endosulfan poisoning might be more likely to produce children with autism. There is a need to monitor possible congenital diseases resulting from exposure to endosulfan.

REX WARREN
President, Australian Chemical Trauma Alliance
Queensland, Australia


I found your article on endosulfan in Kerala very interesting. A unep (United Nations Environment Programme) study has already listed endosulfan as belonging to the pops (persistent organic pollutants) category. It is deadliest to humans, and causes neurotoxic and teratogenic effects in humans. It persists in the environment more than 7-10 years even after it is banned. I strongly encourage your intention to advocate banning this chemical in India. I wish you all the best in your effort.

KURUNTHACHALAM
SENTHIL KUMAR
Technical Scientist, Shimadzu-Techno Research Inc, Japan...

Unmoved bhadralok

Kolkata's 'ac' people, (armchair conservationists) got together once again on June 5, 2002 to celebrate an 'environment festival'. They choose to turn a blind eye to the realities of Kolkata's natural environment and celebrated the day, quite typically, in ac (air-conditioned) rooms. I have collected some facts and figures to inform readers of the situation in Kolkata and West Bengal:

According to reliable information, the Arabari forest range, Midnapore district, West Bengal, which set an example for joint forest management (jfm) throughout the country, is now vanishing rapidly due to illegal timber smuggling.

Kolkata Traffic Police's published report says that the area of motorable roads in the city remains static at six per cent of the city's total area, while vehicular traffic in the city is growing faster than human population.

Coliform bacteria levels in drinking water stand at about 50,000 per 100 ml, which is way more than Calcutta Pollution Control Board specifications. At Garden Reach, from where the city's drinking water is supplied, coliform levels are around 85,000 per 100 ml.

It is also a fact that the tree cover of the city is decreasing everyday.

However, there is no true environmental movement as such. One only hopes that the old maxim -- what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow -- does not hold good anymore.

Will the Left Front government wake up and implement their environmental plans and policies and walk straight?

ARUNAYAN SHARMA
s_arunayan@rediffmail.com...

Disaster in the offing

The chief ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra seem to have just one deaf political ear on the Narmada project. This project poses serious threat not only to the oustees in the catchment area, under threat of submersion, but also to millions of people in the command area, including Bharuch city and innumerable villages. There is also the threat that the dam might collapse in an accident, killing millions. Such an accident could be caused by catastrophic earthquakes, bombing, foundation or construction deficiencies, underground nuclear explosion by neighbouring countries, or failure of one or more dams in the active upstream side of the Sardar Sarovar project.

Whereas the Japanese use a seismic coefficient of 0.3 for the design of their dams, the Sardar Sarovar dam has a very low seismic coefficient (0.125). This is particularly worrying in the light of the two catastrophic earthquakes that rocked Gujarat once in 1819, and again in 2001. Since about 10 per cent of all dams fail, including a two per cent collapse rate, the environmental impact assessment of Sardar Sarovar must include reports on risk analysis for dam burst scenarios, inundation maps due to flash floods caused by failure of the dam, and disaster management for protecting the lives of the people, their properties and environmental assets.

The higher the height of the dam, greater will be the degree of devastation due to floods. Hence, the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam must be primarily fixed on the basis of the decision made by potential victims of flash floods consequent to the failure of the dam. The state government must also clearly decide on how many lakhs of human and animal population it is prepared to sacrifice. Narmada Bachao Andolan activists like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy must realise that dam safety legislations in the us make preparation for dam-burst scenarios and disaster management reports compulsory. Engineers in the us are still learning lessons from the latest earthquakes, cancelling some hazardous projects, dismantling some and strengthening a few others.

The pronouncement of the Narmada Tribunal that the parameters of the Sardar Sarovar dam will neither be reviewed nor changed till 2025 is fraught with dangerous consequences. Hence, intellectuals and activists must educate people on the crucial safety aspects of this project, so that the central and state governments can be pressurised to modify the project and ensure sustainable development of the state and the nation.

T SHIVAJI RAO
profshivajirao@hotmail.com...

First among equals

As you know, the spate of disasters in Orissa over the last decade resulted in enormous economic cost to the state, and is partly attributed to a phenomenon called 'global warming'. Experts say that extreme events, like heavy rainfall, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, coastal storm surges and flooding, are likely to become more frequent and intense. These calamities are also spreading to areas never known to be vulnerable, like droughts in Sundargarh and Kendrapara. Such changes have major implications for a poor, vulnerable state like Orissa.

Greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from industrialised countries, are causing global warming. This leads to a rise in sea level and triggers a series of climatic changes. In Orissa, this would result in lower agricultural productivity, could displace people, disrupt livelihood in coastal areas, and increase malnutrition levels and prevalence of diseases.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised countries have agreed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by a certain percentage, as they are historically responsible for the problem of global warming. But recently the us has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, refusing to make a distinction between the luxury emissions of rich countries and survival emissions of poor countries.

India will host the next round of international climate change negotiations in October 2002 at New Delhi. As a concerned organisation operating out of Orissa, a state vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, we would like to request the honourable ministers and officials of the concerned ministries to take a strong stand in the meeting and demand that:

Rich countries, including the us, take responsibility and recognise the right of poor countries to equal per capita emissions (the per capita emissions of us is 19 times that of India);

Help poor countries to adapt to climate change, thus limiting damage to life and property, and compensate them for the damage.

K K SWAIN
ovha@vsnl.net...

Forewarned

The article on bamboo flowering (Down To Earth, Vol 11, No 3; June 30, 2002) was very informative. I have been working on traditional knowledge for a long time now. During one of my field visits, I had occasion to document traditional knowledge from the eastern part of Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh. The people there believe that bamboo flowering is a sign of severe drought. So, as soon as they see bamboo flowering, they change every strategy of farming. Maybe we could call this kind of knowledge 'socially validated traditional knowledge'?

RANJAY K SINGH
Research Associate
Indian Institute of Management
Ahmedabad, Gujarat
...

A self-centred nation

Apropos your excellent editorial 'Taking the us to democracy' (Down To Earth, Vol 11, No 2; June 15, 2002), the American population, which is four per cent of world population, contributes around 25 per cent of the total greenhouse emission. While it needs to reduce its emission of carbon dioxide by 60 to 80 per cent, it has, instead, resorted to the politics of apocalypse under George W Bush by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. The debate on global warming is over. It is real now. We have heated our deep oceans, and loosened a wave of violent and chaotic weather. The evidence is all around. The federal report Climate Change in America forecast a dire future of disappearing alpine meadows, loss of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, replacement of forests with grasslands, and a considerable rise in temperature in the us.

Former us president Bill Clinton and Bush's electoral rival Al Gore took a lead in initiating the Kyoto Protocol. The contrary attitude of the Bush administration is ascribed mainly to two factors: firstly, the Bush administration appears to be the voice of oil barons with whose help of us $100 billion, Bush fought his election. Secondly, there are the observations and recommendations of the Cheney Committee, chaired by Dick Cheney, the vice-president. The committee has observed that the us will face an energy shortage of 32 per cent by 2020, and recommended the setting up of 1,300 to 1,900 new coal-based energy projects (since America has huge resources of coal) to make good the apprehended shortage of power.

Close scrutiny of the us attitude reveals that it is an entirely self-centred nation. The us, land of the free and home of the brave, demonstrates its freedom by drowning other nations, and its bravery by ignoring world opinion.

JAYDEV JANA
Kolkata, West Bengal...

The poor should plan

The leader 'No food talk' and news item 'Starved of substance' (Down To Earth, Vol 11, No 4; July 15, 2002) on the World Food Summit convened by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (fao) in Rome from June 10-13, 2002 rightly call it a 'sorry affair'. They also rightly point out the indifference of the western world to global hunger. While discussing the attitude of the so-called developed nations towards developing or underdeveloped nations, it should always be kept in mind that most of the developed countries have been colonialists, and owe their present prosperity to exploitation of other countries. Even now they are more interested in themselves. Whatever they say for the development of the so-called 'poor countries' is for public consumption only.

In fact, they have a stake in keeping other countries poor, so they can exploit these countries in various ways. If the developing nations -- most of who are poor and look towards developed nations for assistance in various forms -- are really interested in their own economic and social development, they should plan for their own development. This would ensure that the plan would take into account various local factors. Of course, the first priority should be education and primary health services coupled with inculcation of honesty and work culture. Once this happens, there will be a sea change in the entire situation. It should also be remembered that the world respects only the strong, whether that be an individual or a nation.

VIDYA SAGAR
Delhi...

Request for data on vehicle emission factors

Dear Ms. Narain, I work for a not-for-profit, NGO - CERF/IIEC (IIEC stands for International Institute of Energy Consrvation) in India. As a part of my work and my PhD research at the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, I would like to request you for any data that you may have that compares the vehicular emissions (GHGs, CO, NOx, SOx and HCs) when different type of fuel - such as CNG, diesel and petrol is used in the Mumbai and New Delhi taxicabs, buses and three-wheelers. Unfortunately, this data is not available on public domain (which in my opinion should be made available in public interest). Your name was suggested to me by ARAI in Pune. I look forward to receive this data from you and to meet you to brief you on our activities in India. Thanking you, Best regards, Mahesh Patankar CERF/IIEC - India Tel: (022) 692 8831, Fax: (022) 692 8832 E-mail: mpatankar@iiec.cerf.org...

Natural colours /organic cotton

With interest I read your article about natural colours.It is time to move away from synthetic colours and back to the rich range of long known natural colours.But attention!It cannot be the solution to destroy nature and traditional agriculture to put on large monoculture for winning natural colours.If this is done we will soon have the same environmental problems as with other monocultures.Why not use the traditional knowledge and carefully broaden it?What all people over the world not only in India have to do is to lower their demands.Who needs 20 or 30 salvar-kameez and 20 sarees?It is not necessary to have new clothes every season.If we become more modest the available ground,plants and fields will yield enough natural colours.That is the first way to ask what I really need and for what I spend my money.In this way even people who are not rich can afford ecofriendly products.I am a non-resident Indian belonging to the Bishnoi community living in Germany.Our income here is on a lower level but we think about the things we need and only buy ecofriendly food and other products.Every 3 years I come to India and I always find it difficult to find shops with ecofriendly products.I already got some adresses from you.In this article a woman called Pasha was mentioned who only buys naturally dyed clothes.Could you tell me the adress of the shop where she gets her clothes?Does it offer traditional Indian clothes(salvar-kameez,sarees,Ghagra) because even in Germany I only wear my traditional Indian garments?Also I would be thankful for adresses in and around Delhi and Rajasthan where I can get ecofriendly products.I want to add that on natural colours which are extracted from animals there should be a note that this is not suitable for vegetarians.In my strictly vegetarian Bishnoi community these colours are not suitable and I do not want to buy them. Yours sincerely Archana Niermann-Bishnoi...

plastic Vs trees

I read the views of Mr Prasanto Banerjee rep of a firm having business interests and Ms Bharti Chaturvedi rep of an NGO having concern for the environment, pleading for and against the use of plastic. Issues like plastic vs trees, plastic vs paper and plastic vs environment are frequently discussed and propagated by media. Views of Mr .Banerjee sound more close to reality than that of Ms Bharti. However, the ultimate sufferer or beneficiary is common man but none of the two included his point of view in their pleadings, what a common man thinks on the ban or continuance of the plastic, more specifically, the carry bags, locally called "panni". I represent a common man and my views are as follows: (i) Plastic is a wonderful material. Plastic articles are not only cheaper but hygienic, strong, attractive, convenient and easy in availability and handling. There appears no drawback from the point of view of its USE. Even mineral water in plastic bottles is more convenient for handling and use. (ii) Utility of plastic bags in our houses is tremendous from storing green vegetables to developing a nursery to packing house-hold garbage for disposal . Presently, nothing can compete a plastic article specially "Panni". This popularity has been gained by panni by itself. Nobody ever canvassed for the use of plastic bag to replace conventional "Thaila". Slowly we ourselves stopped carrying it. (iii) Being a poor society, we are mostly driven by the economics . In case a cheaper option is available, no other consideration is important until extra-ordinary. We mainly go by two considerations, cost and utility in the same order. Consideration of convenience holds good for every body because it is natural to go for the most convenient option, be it an environmentalist or a business man or a common man (iv) One can easily see that the use of plastic can not be stopped (banning may reduce its use for the time being) until more convenient, useful and cheaper option is given to common man. Banning such a useful thing and putting every body into great inconvenience is not a good governance. Petrol, diesel, production of electricity and innumerous things have adverse bearing on environment but non of them has been banned. (v) Economic considerations being a way of our life in our country, most of the plastic articles are not thrown but sold to local Raddiwalah. Panni, pan-masala pouches and other pouches which have no economic value are only thrown. Plastic bottles are used until rendered useless. Littering of plastic mainly comprise of these valueless waste is the main cause of concern ,not only for the environmentalists but for all of us. Main disadvantages of littering of panni etc. Include  Harm to grazing animals specially cows and buffaloes  Unsightliness  Choking of drains and sewer lines  Spoiling of water bodies in the catchment littered with panni  Non-biodegradable and stays in the environment for very long time Sincere efforts may be made by one and all to find out a practical methodology for effective collection of plastic panni. Option developed on economic considerations have more chances of wide acceptability. Attach some value to such waste and every rag picker will go after it. The govt is to establish an effective disposal system for the collected plastic panni and similar articles. ...

request for your profile

Dear ma'am, my name is Jyotika Oberoi,and i am a second year student of Lady Shri Ram College for women,New Delhi. i have been assigned to write a profile of an editor of a magazine or newspaper and i have chosen to write about you.therefore i request you to send me your profile at the enclosed email address. Thanking you, Jyotika Oberoi...

Request for data on vehicle emission factors

Dear Ms. Narain, I work for a not-for-profit, NGO - CERF/IIEC (IIEC stands for International Institute of Energy Consrvation) in India. As a part of my work and my PhD research at the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, I would like to request you for any data that you may have that compares the vehicular emissions (GHGs, CO, NOx, SOx and HCs) when different type of fuel - such as CNG, diesel and petrol is used in the Mumbai and New Delhi taxicabs, buses and three-wheelers. Unfortunately, this data is not available on public domain (which in my opinion should be made available in public interest). Your name was suggested to me by ARAI in Pune. I look forward to receive this data from you and to meet you to brief you on our activities in India. Thanking you, Best regards, Mahesh Patankar CERF/IIEC - India Tel: (022) 692 8831, Fax: (022) 692 8832 E-mail: mpatankar@iiec.cerf.org...

Natural colours /organic cotton

With interest I read your article about natural colours.It is time to move away from synthetic colours and back to the rich range of long known natural colours.But attention!It cannot be the solution to destroy nature and traditional agriculture to put on large monoculture for winning natural colours.If this is done we will soon have the same environmental problems as with other monocultures.Why not use the traditional knowledge and carefully broaden it?What all people over the world not only in India have to do is to lower their demands.Who needs 20 or 30 salvar-kameez and 20 sarees?It is not necessary to have new clothes every season.If we become more modest the available ground,plants and fields will yield enough natural colours.That is the first way to ask what I really need and for what I spend my money.In this way even people who are not rich can afford ecofriendly products.I am a non-resident Indian belonging to the Bishnoi community living in Germany.Our income here is on a lower level but we think about the things we need and only buy ecofriendly food and other products.Every 3 years I come to India and I always find it difficult to find shops with ecofriendly products.I already got some adresses from you.In this article a woman called Pasha was mentioned who only buys naturally dyed clothes.Could you tell me the adress of the shop where she gets her clothes?Does it offer traditional Indian clothes(salvar-kameez,sarees,Ghagra) because even in Germany I only wear my traditional Indian garments?Also I would be thankful for adresses in and around Delhi and Rajasthan where I can get ecofriendly products.I want to add that on natural colours which are extracted from animals there should be a note that this is not suitable for vegetarians.In my strictly vegetarian Bishnoi community these colours are not suitable and I do not want to buy them. Yours sincerely Archana Niermann-Bishnoi...

plastic Vs trees

I read the views of Mr Prasanto Banerjee rep of a firm having business interests and Ms Bharti Chaturvedi rep of an NGO having concern for the environment, pleading for and against the use of plastic. Issues like plastic vs trees, plastic vs paper and plastic vs environment are frequently discussed and propagated by media. Views of Mr .Banerjee sound more close to reality than that of Ms Bharti. However, the ultimate sufferer or beneficiary is common man but none of the two included his point of view in their pleadings, what a common man thinks on the ban or continuance of the plastic, more specifically, the carry bags, locally called "panni". I represent a common man and my views are as follows: (i) Plastic is a wonderful material. Plastic articles are not only cheaper but hygienic, strong, attractive, convenient and easy in availability and handling. There appears no drawback from the point of view of its USE. Even mineral water in plastic bottles is more convenient for handling and use. (ii) Utility of plastic bags in our houses is tremendous from storing green vegetables to developing a nursery to packing house-hold garbage for disposal . Presently, nothing can compete a plastic article specially "Panni". This popularity has been gained by panni by itself. Nobody ever canvassed for the use of plastic bag to replace conventional "Thaila". Slowly we ourselves stopped carrying it. (iii) Being a poor society, we are mostly driven by the economics . In case a cheaper option is available, no other consideration is important until extra-ordinary. We mainly go by two considerations, cost and utility in the same order. Consideration of convenience holds good for every body because it is natural to go for the most convenient option, be it an environmentalist or a business man or a common man (iv) One can easily see that the use of plastic can not be stopped (banning may reduce its use for the time being) until more convenient, useful and cheaper option is given to common man. Banning such a useful thing and putting every body into great inconvenience is not a good governance. Petrol, diesel, production of electricity and innumerous things have adverse bearing on environment but non of them has been banned. (v) Economic considerations being a way of our life in our country, most of the plastic articles are not thrown but sold to local Raddiwalah. Panni, pan-masala pouches and other pouches which have no economic value are only thrown. Plastic bottles are used until rendered useless. Littering of plastic mainly comprise of these valueless waste is the main cause of concern ,not only for the environmentalists but for all of us. Main disadvantages of littering of panni etc. Include  Harm to grazing animals specially cows and buffaloes  Unsightliness  Choking of drains and sewer lines  Spoiling of water bodies in the catchment littered with panni  Non-biodegradable and stays in the environment for very long time Sincere efforts may be made by one and all to find out a practical methodology for effective collection of plastic panni. Option developed on economic considerations have more chances of wide acceptability. Attach some value to such waste and every rag picker will go after it. The govt is to establish an effective disposal system for the collected plastic panni and similar articles. ...

CAR FREE DAY ON 22ND SEPTEMBER 2002 IN INDIA

Dear Madam11thn Aug 2002 Shimoga 577 201 Karnataka Reg: Popularising the concept CAR FREE DAY in India Ref: (a) Article published in DOWN TO EARTH dt. July 15th 2001 (b) News item published in page no 9 of DOWN TO EARTH dt.30th Nov 2001 I am a regular subscriber to your magazine. With reference to (a) above you have published a very interesting and educative article based on which with reference to ( b) above I took the initiative of celebrating CAR FREE DAY in INDIA for the first time on 6th Oct. 2001. I believe that until and unless the movement like CAR FREE DAY reaches the common man it is not possible to achieve the results of such movement as the European countries have achieved. With this intention I am writing this letter to you to take initiative from your end so that the CAR FREE DAY can be celebrated on 22nd SEPTEMBER 2002 ( which is International CAR FREE DAY ) at metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkatta ( and other cities too ). Because celebration of CAR FREE DAY at these cities certainly influence the people of whole India. I am planning to celebrate here with the help of students, NGOs, Government Organisations, Public representatives etc., Hope you will consider my suggestion as useful to the humankind. Thanking You Yours truly Er.M.S.SOMASHEKARA H.NO.57/1, THIRD CROSS JAYANAGAR SHIMOGA-577 201 ...

Subscribe to Weekly 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.