Letters

 
Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Pick of the post bag

Mass murder
Jammu and Kashmir (j&k) is known for its scenic beauty. But in April, forest fires at different places destroyed large areas under forests. Every year, fires like these damage the 'green gold' of this state. Besides forest fires, though, the felling of trees also contributes substantially to the destruction of forests. Bhaderwah block in Doda district is a prime example. The famous deodar trees (Cidrus deodara) are mercilessly felled, either for construction of houses or for money through sale of wood. I was offered sleepers of deodar wood forRs 150-200 in Bhaderwah. The same amount of wood would cost Rs 6,000 or more in Jammu.

The mafia engaged in wood smuggling here have no fear of forest officials. They know that no official would ever dare to visit the place because of the problem of militancy. At any rate, if any official does object, s/he would be paid a certain share of the profits, or threatened with dire consequences. Villagers say that if the official is absolutely uncooperative, s/he will be transferred to some other place because the mafia has amicable relations with the ministry.

Thanks to the continuing deforestation, the hills of Doda stand bare today, denuded of its once breathtaking beauty. Blushing with shame, they recede everyday, leaving behind only a few traces of their existence. The soil of the region is also no longer as fertile, the water-table has receded, and the rainfall pattern has changed. The net consequence is that crop yields in the region have been negligible. Residents have been depending on free foodgrain distributed under the 'drought prone area scheme', which was launched by the Ministry of Rural Development.

The tree-felling mafia have devised ingenious methods to ensure that their work proceeds smoothly. They get permission to fell trees that are dead or dying. The mafia actively kills trees, and leaves them to die. One method is to cut the phloem of the tree horizontally at the ground level, through its circumference. This cut is generally unnoticeable as it is covered by soil. The tree does not receive nourishment, and is bound to die soon.

Needless to say, the authorities are aware of the actual situation. But they are keeping quiet. They do not intend to lose the piece of meat they receive regularly. At a minimum, they want to ensure that they are not on the hit-list of the mafia.

RAVI SHARMA
ravi_env2002@yahoo.com...

Jinxed city

I am a resident of the doomed city of Ahmedabad, and can't help but wonder whether my city is jinxed. Droughts, floods, riots, the devastating earthquake; it's been one thing after another.

I was very disturbed by the story 'Real estate' in Down To Earth (Vol 11, No 3; June 30, 2002) about how a few people are trying to protect the lakes, and how the whole city is against this protection! The people of Ahmedabad have learnt nothing from the many disasters that have befallen the city. Maybe we have no souls left. When we see an organisation or individual fighting for a good cause, we sit, watch and comment, then criticise. Then we throw him or her in harm's way. The cause taken up by your organisation is commendable, and I am sure you do not need a person like me to tell you this. But it is important that I state this, because it is my city we are talking about.

It is important that all the residents of this city come together. In order to protect ourselves, maybe the first thing we ought to do is throw away certain people who have been placed in positions of tremendous power.

URVI SHAH
shahurvee@rediffmail.com...

Plastic power

I am an avid reader of Down To Earth, and commend you at the outset on the contents of your magazine. It most certainly serves to educate our citizens on issues relating to environment, and also imbibes in them the urgency with which they need to do something towards protecting, improving and conserving the environment.

What, however, is disheartening is the manner in which the magazine indiscriminately (and without thought) derides plastics. What is essential is to inculcate in human beings and the present generation a need to use plastics (or for that matter any resource) judiciously. We need to follow the four 'rs' -- recover, reduce, reuse, and recycle. To simply say 'plastics are bad, so don't use them', will lead us nowhere.

Would you like to use metal conduits to carry electricity instead of the plastic sheathing and pipes, and then die of shock if you touch it? Would you dispose of your garbage in paper bags, so it spills all over? Would you like to sit in your air conditioned office with no plastic/foam insulation, so that your electricity bill is a few times more than it is today? Would you like to replace plastics in your aeroplane, when you fly to Johannesburg for your World Summit on Sustainable Development so that the airline can carry perhaps half the number of passengers it carries right now? Would you like to have metal keyboards to write out your articles? The list is endless.

So what we need to imbibe in ourselves is a habit of not littering, and reducing and reusing all resources. Saying "ban plastics" is like saying "ban electricity" because electric shocks kill. You cannot remove plastics, whatever you may write or do, and go back to the stone ages. We at Manas would be glad to provide readers with a series of articles on what plastics are about -- their benefits, uses, and also the harm they may cause when not used judiciously.

SAMIT JAIN
Manas Educational Services Division
New Delhi
...

The right to choose

Promoters of water fluoridation offer the lure of strong, healthy teeth and reduced dental bills as inducements for communities to fluoridate their water. Fluoride is also promoted for other tooth-related uses. However, even the promoters have scaled down the benefits claimed for water fluoridation and admitted the danger of fluorosis from toothpaste.

For every study by promoters on the benefits of fluoridation, particularly regarding reduction of cavities, there are equally reputable studies showing little or no effect on cavity rates. Studies in mainstream peer-reviewed medical journals and government reports document the fact that serious harm is associated with exposure to small amounts of fluoride -- including hip fracture, cancer and intellectual impairment.

There is evidence that both individual and institutional fluoride promoters have stacked the deck, manipulated experimental results and suppressed evidence that spoke against their view. They have victimised or smeared those who spoke out against them. The fact is that if it works at all, the benefits are very much less than claimed. It is strongly linked to three-fold increases in hip and other non-vertebral fracture rates. There is growing evidence of other even more serious medical consequences. A recent study showed evidence of intellectual impairment caused by fluoride.

Given a recommendation for medication, individuals in a free society have a right to choose whether or not to accept treatment, and a right to be told the truth. Water fluoridation abrogates these rights. Much more information is available than is humanly possible to present here. However, readers should gain some insight into the debate on water fluoridation, and be able to decide for themselves whether the controversy is false or not. My own conclusion is that the most charitable interpretation one can put on the situation is that old habits die hard, and the medical/dental establishment is slow to adapt to the realities of modern research. Maybe they are also fearful both of losing face and facing law suits if they admit to having made a mistake.

PRADEEP DWIVEDI
dwi_pradeep@yahoo.co.in...

Disqualified?

We were surprised to see your article on the issue of the Grand Hyatt as an example of water harvesting. The assessment missed the wood for the trees. The hotel is responsible for the entire area of that portion of the Ridge drying up through excessive extraction of groundwater. The report by the Bhure Lal committee on the Grand Hyatt, set up by the Supreme Court, clearly states that all water clearances obtained by the hotel are illegal. In fact, it does not even have a Municipal Corporation of Delhi connection! The report states, "The hotel's requirement is 1,900 kilolitres per day, or 6.3 lakh litres per year. This is more than the assessed availability for the whole 315 hectare area of the Ridge by about four and a half times."

The water that the hotel is using has been extracted from the Ridge area, and illegally so. This has led the huge water bodies in its vicinity, which were full of water and migratory birds before the Hyatt was built, to become totally dry over the past couple of years.

The report adds, "Misdeclaration of use by the hotel nullifies the validity of its registration...The hotel has not met with the most crucial environmental clearance (that of water). It has set up its structure without abiding by the Honourable Supreme Court's directions. Expert opinion, as quoted in the order on the international hotel's complex, had assessed groundwater availability to be only 1.25 lakh kilolitres per year in the area of 315 hectares or less. They also warned that the rate of discharge must be carefully controlled, for due to the quartzite formation of the area, the rate of recharge is low, and too quick a discharge will deplete the aquifers and reduce yields drastically in the matter of a few years causing the water, which is already brackish, to deteriorate in quality."

Some of us had to approach the Supreme Court in 1997 to stop 12 of the 13 five star hotels coming up on this area of the Ridge, and water availability was a key reason. The Hyatt was cleared later on a technicality. How can water harvesting be good when we are speaking about water extracted illegally, overdrawn for an elite purpose at the expense of other uses and then green-washed through harvesting?

NGO FORUM FOR THE NCR
New Delhi...

Just a few left

The tiger population in West Bengal has declined to 349, from a count of 365 in 1999. This was the finding of a tiger census conducted between December 2001 and February 2002. The study was mainly conducted in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (str) and north Bengal. According to the census, str has 245 tigers. This includes 93 males, 129 females and 23 cubs. The South 24 Parganas forest area has seven males, 13 females and six cubs. The north Bengal region has 104 tigers. Buxa Tiger Reserve has 31 tigers, and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary has 15. The Gorumara and Chapramari wildlife sanctuaries have a combined population of 19 tigers. In Coochbehar there are three males, five females and one cub. Bikunthapur division is home to one tiger, and so is Kalimpong.

ARUNAYAN SHARMA
s_arunayan@rediffmail.com...

NGOs unite

Non-governmental organisations (ngos) working in various fields, especially on environment, are coming up by the dozen these days. It does look like new environmentalists have better job opportunities than ever before! However, there are a small number of organisations that are working seriously and sincerely on their mandate, and their presence cannot be ignored. So many ngos and no progress. Why? I think this question needs in-depth analysis.

One problem that needs stating straightaway is the lack of unity among ngos. Take the instance of bidding for projects of Environmental Impact Assessment (eia), where a number of the bidders are ngos. But the reports of these ngos rarely reflect their desire to work for a better environment. There are only one or two cases that stand as proof of the consistency of ngos. In fact, when a project is awarded, the investigator follows the norms of the project authorities rather than that of the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb).

Even with thousands of ngos working in India, we are unable to protect either our wildlife or our environment. The root cause of this situation is the lack of determination, sincerity, seriousness and above all, togetherness among ngos. In an ideal situation, established organisations would help smaller organisations and individuals, who have the desire to work, but lack the infrastructure to carry out their conviction.

JATIN KUMAR SRIVASTAVA
jks_345@rediffmail.com...

No escape

The Sethusamudram project is finally making news, albeit as a small note in Down To Earth (Vol 10, No 25; May 15, 2002). I wonder if readers realise the magnitude of this project. It essentially involves deepening the Palk Straits to allow large ships to pass through them.

The deepening process is likely to affect at least two important protected areas -- the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, and the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary. Dredging is likely to cause siltation, and the effect of this on corals is known. Changes in currents caused by the changed underwater topography are also likely to affect the productivity of the marine systems in the region in ways we cannot predict.

In spite of this, the environmental impact assessment (eia) will cost only Rs one crore -- a pittance for a project this size. Also, a time frame of six months isn't even enough to map the annual change in currents (obviously a year is the minimum to account for seasonal changes, and a longer period is better in case there are variations between years).

First, a general point on the eia process. Existing eias I have seen have totally unsatisfactory answers. For instance, a standard question and answer is: "Are there any endangered species in the area?" "No, there are no endangered species in the area."

Next, a comment on the organisation doing it. I know very little about the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, and I'm sure they're a bunch of fine fellows. I have, however, seen the report they did on the tourism potential of the Andamans. While the sections relating to effluent treatment are probably fine, the rest of the report is an invitation to environmental disaster (among its recommendations: the islands can support 155,000 tourists in a year!). As a citizen, I'd like to know the kind of expertise that will go into the team doing the study.

I might be totally wrong in what I have said above. The only way I, or any of us, can be sure that no environmental damage (or 'acceptable' damage if somebody cares to define it), is for the whole process to be transparent. I'm not holding my breath.

RAUF ALI
Wandoor, Andamans...

Quick note

The article 'Seeking Nirvana: Rich, restless and willing to pay' (Vol 11, No 5; July 31, 2002) refers to a certain Babu Varghese and his travel agency Tour India, which is Kerala-based. Could you kindly send me his contact, with address, telephone/fax numbers, email address, etc., so we could get in touch with him?

SOCORRO N MASCARENHAS
socorro@marson.com

The requested address is given below:
Tour India
Post Box No. 163, M G Road
Thiruvananthapuram 695 001
Tel: 0471-330437, 331507
Fax: 0471-331407
Email: tourindia@vsnl.com
Web: www.richsoft.com/tourindia

We hope you will be able to get in touch with them....

Deaf to Noise Pollution

Apropos the Aug 31 issue, most of us in India have an amazingly callous disregard to the ill effects of noise. And, we are quick to brand those of us concerned about the same as irreligious or soem other convenient tag. Be it under the guise of religion(be it speakers blaring from religious places or crackers going bang!!!) or rallies or some festive occasion, we seem to find it absolutely necessary to make the "right noises". Or else our celebrations seem incomplete. Time, we became more conscious of the ill effects of noise and lent the cause an ear. Regds, Vijay...

World Summit

Ms. Marian, I'd like to make a short comment regarding your participation in the World Summit. I was able to catch just a glimpse of the summit on American television and am glad I did. Your strength and voice came across loud and clear regarding responsibilities of the corporations. I have come to deeply admire your India and believe that India will play a major role in changing this world for the better. Seeing you on the television helped me realize the power that an individual has if applied for good reasons, and that truth will always prevail. I will visit this site often, and consider it an honor to correspond to you. Thank you for that opportunity. Sincerely, Eric...

World Summit

Ms. Marian, I'd like to make a short comment regarding your participation in the World Summit. I was able to catch just a glimpse of the summit on American television and am glad I did. Your strength and voice came across loud and clear regarding responsibilities of the corporations. I have come to deeply admire your India and believe that India will play a major role in changing this world for the better. Seeing you on the television helped me realize the power that an individual has if applied for good reasons, and that truth will always prevail. I will visit this site often, and consider it an honor to correspond to you. Thank you for that opportunity. Sincerely, Eric...

Bill Moyers Program

Thank You for your efforts. I was very impressed with your intelligent and forceful response to the representatives of the corporate structure. I don't know that they are listening to you but you at least got the attention of people like me whom already agree with you ! I think that the corporate profit hoarders will fail in the next few years and when they do; we will finally get something positive accomplished. I just pray that it will be enough and in time ! God Speed you on your journey......Bill Nicholson...

Deaf to Noise Pollution

Apropos the Aug 31 issue, most of us in India have an amazingly callous disregard to the ill effects of noise. And, we are quick to brand those of us concerned about the same as irreligious or soem other convenient tag. Be it under the guise of religion(be it speakers blaring from religious places or crackers going bang!!!) or rallies or some festive occasion, we seem to find it absolutely necessary to make the "right noises". Or else our celebrations seem incomplete. Time, we became more conscious of the ill effects of noise and lent the cause an ear. Regds, Vijay...

quality sustainable

Doing more with less or *An absence of destiny* Perhaps, there would be a very clear and precise difference between two selective philosophies, such as the martyrdom of Democrats and Republicans et al, *If* either party or any party, as a fact, had a quality sustainable plan and *if* they expect to be around for 20, 40, 100 more years, I believe it would be actively apparent. The logical population keys of *Our sustainable objectives* seem to be missing, like my Christmas Tree. Santa and Reindeer have an amusing reality, for children & the Grinch that stole Christmas. One can pretend, as a child, a legacy of forever, and now, with time short and small, with a whole lot of things missing, clean air, clean water, trees, logic, quality sustainable plan, etc. we find a world of Democrats, Republicans, et al, wallowing in the residues of prosperity, self pity, the terrorism of martyrdom, and overpopulation and polls, still pretending, our destiny of infinity. I do believe humanity does not wish or want, an understanding of itself, because of traditions and addictions, philosophies and superstition, martyrdom, Residues of Prosperity, ( Overpopulation bad habits) that would require a radical attitude & reality adjustment, doing more with less, that poll-taking politicians and our leaders definitely will not touch, until some predestined catastrophe, a change in the direction of destiny. In the murky gyrations of our exacerbated reality, the terrorism of a death wish, liberals and conservatives, etc. find themselves crippled with procrastination, endless politically correct excuses and no stable accountable population and no long-term quality sustainable world health plan, taking part in a new version of Easter Island Syndrome, our legacy without a parachute. We humans have substituted *a terminal quantity for quality* and superstition, polls & finger pointing exercises for: reality, logic and the distance to *An absence of destiny* best wishes, Seth...

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.