Published: Saturday 30 November 2002

Pick of the post bag

Good tidings
Please refer to the article 'Forestmaker' published in Down To Earth (DTE, Vol 8, No 24; May 15, 2000) in the 'Grassroots' section. I am happy to convey to you that Kunwar Damodar Singh, the person you wrote about in that article, has received the Priyardarshini Vrikshamitra Award this year. Your institution played a pivotal role in giving him his due.

When he came back from Bangalore after receiving the award, he wept uncontrollably, thanking me for my efforts in helping him get the recognition. (I was the first person to tell him about this award. Subsequently, I proposed his name for the award.) Even though the effort was all his, and the recognition was his due, it feels good that I could play a minor role in helping him on his way.

And as these thoughts were going through my mind, I felt I ought to share the news with you as well. Prior to the article in dte, his efforts were unrecognised even in the nearby district headquarters, i.e. Pithoragarh. After the article, he was suddenly flooded with visitors, most often foreigners and scientists. To all of them, he used to enquire, "Where did you learn about my work?" The reply, almost inevitably, was the same: " Down To Earth !" This says a lot about the reach of your magazine.

Pithoragarh, Uttaranchal...

REJOINDERS: Is Sri Lanka swapping forests for debt?

As an admirer and long-time subscriber of Down To Earth , I was disappointed in Tharuka Dissanaike's poorly researched article 'Debt trap' (DTE, Vol 11, No 11; October 31, 2002). This article (on a cash-strapped Sri Lanka being under pressure from the us, which is looking to play a decisive role in conservation of Sri Lankan tropical forests) is misleading and contains a wealth of factual inaccuracies.

The us has never "offered to waive the island nation's debt in exchange for control over four tropical forests". The government, therefore, had no cause to respond with "an unequivocal 'No, thank you'". What is more, no decision by the government (in relation to the us Tropical Forest Conservation Act (tfca)) is due in November; neither is such a decision under consideration.

The statement that the "Sinharaja rainforest, Peak Wilderness, Knuckles and Namunukula ranges...constitute over 25 per cent of the country's forest cover" is also incorrect. In fact, these four forests account for significantly less than 2.5 per cent of Sri Lanka's total forest estate.

It is widely accepted that Sri Lanka's national debt is intolerable. The government, naturally, will investigate any responsible mechanism that could relieve this burden. Should the us government make a formal offer of benefits under the tfca, the Sri Lankan government has an obligation to evaluate it in all its aspects. But this is not to say that we will allow our country's sovereignty to be compromised. I have not seen the statement by Greenpeace that the article refers to, warning against 'selling off' Sri Lanka's forests to the us. If true, such a warning is entirely redundant: rather than criticise from the sidelines, I would urge Greenpeace to engage in genuine nature conservation efforts in our country.

Sri Lanka is committed to sustainable development within a framework of environmental good-governance. This does not include 'selling off' our forest assets, compromising the conservation of our unique biodiversity, jeopardising the rights of local communities, surrendering rights over intellectual property or natural resources or accepting conditions that could in any way impinge on the sovereignty of the people. The us government has proposed no such trade, and you may rest assured that neither Sri Lanka's government nor its civil society would ever permit such trade.

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
Sri Lanka

Our correspondent THARUKA DISSANAIKE responds:
Rohan Pethiyagoda says the us embassy has never offered the trade-off I refer to in my article. I have, however, a statement made by Ambassador Ashley Wills himself, who in a press release on June 2001, tries to quell bad publicity saying, "I wish to emphasise that the us by no means insists that the Sri Lankan government avail itself of this programme. The programme is offered entirely at Sri Lanka's option." (A hard copy of the release is available with me.)

Speaking of the tcfa, Wills says, "The Act allows nations to convert money owed to the us government into funding for local programmes to preserve their own forests." According to Sri Lankan external resources department figures, the Sri Lankan government's debt to the us stands at us $400 million.

Contrary to Pethiyagoda's claim that the government is not, and has never considered this proposal, Thosapala Hewage, secretary to the ministry of environment and natural resources,<>

Where's our share?

I write with special reference to the international climate change negotiations held in New Delhi (October 23-November 1, 2002). Here is an opportunity to voice apprehensions about, and seek adequate redressal for, the damage India (and the South) suffers on the score of emission of excessive greenhouse gases (ghg) by the North, leading to global warming and other disastrous consequences.

Let me briefly mention a few well-known facts that 'developed' nations obfuscate to escape global guilt. Increasing emissions of ghgs, like carbon dioxide, which trap heat, are causing global temperatures to rise. This results in extreme events, such as droughts, floods and cyclones. For instance, the south-western parts of this country are expected to receive more rainfall due to climate change. Global warming may not have been solely responsible for the devastating floods in Kerala in 2000, which rendered 55,758 people homeless, or the heavy rains in 2001 affecting an estimated one lakh people. But such events indicate that climatic changes are already underway.

Such changes do not portend well for agriculture, health, flora and fauna, and water resources -- and thus for the Indian economy. India may suffer a decline of nine million tonnes in cereal production as a result of climate change. If temperatures rise by two degrees centigrade and mean rainfall increase by seven per cent, the country's net agricultural revenue will reduce by 12.3 per cent. Biodiversity in hotspots, like the Western Ghats (an important resource base because of its high degree of endemism, biodiversity and productivity) are at risk.

There is a category of universal property, like outer space. Likewise, the atmosphere belongs to all of humanity, to every member of planet Earth. The North is culpable if it inflicts injury on the South's equal title to clean atmosphere. Equity and good conscience in sharing natural bounty demands that the North should own responsibility and take initial steps to mitigate climate change. It should compensate the South for losses it would incur as a result of climate change. Any future basis of sharing responsibility to combat climate change should be equal entitlement to use the common atmospheric space.

On behalf of all Indians -- one-fifth of the world's population -- I plead with you to press to success our claim to climate justice.

Retired judge (Supreme Court of India)
Kochi, Kerala...

Too much sugarcane

The editorial 'Rivers of discord' (DTE, Vol 11, No 11; October 31, 2002) was very interesting. I liked the way kuruvai and sambha crops were explained, so even a reader who knew nothing about it to begin with would understand the situation. The solution suggested for optimum utilisation of water is also fascinating. The suggestions on growing less water-consuming crops and diversification in cropping pattern in the lower reaches of Cauvery command were particularly commendable.

I would, however, like to stress that any solution for optimum utilisation of water in agriculture must necessarily include discouragement of sugarcane farming, or at least a significant reduction in the area utilised for growing sugarcane. Sugarcane has become a popular crop, and is grown by the politically powerful, as indicated in your editorial. Sugarcane is a perennial crop and, therefore, consumes more water during its growth. Its water requirement is more than that of most other crops. Keeping this in view, the area suggested for sugarcane crop in the cropping pattern of a proposed irrigation project should not be more than 15-20 per cent, except in fields specifically devoted to sugarcane.

The leader 'Power 'em' is also well-written. Speaking from my experience of visiting various rural areas in India -- in Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh -- I fully endorse the view on empowering people. I say this especially with regard to farmers and villagers, who are the real backbone of the Indian economy. However, the administration should set out on this task prepared with the knowledge that there could be tremendous hurdles on the way.


Crisis management

I refer to the special report 'Shut and dried' by Binayak Das (DTE, Vol 11, No 8; September 15, 2002). dte has rightly targeted the serious issue of privatisation of water and the economics behind it. Since the issue of privatisation is at present confined to some individuals in the field of water management, the working of this system needs to be clearly explained. This will enable everyone to understand it better. The article is highly commendable in this regard. More so in the face of the reality that privatisation of water distribution is unavoidable in the near future.

In this context, I also stress on the importance of treatment of sewage water. This could make enormous quantities of recycled water available for our domestic needs. In fact, 90 per cent of the water supplied by the local administration is misused for non-drinking purposes. Such water is then quickly disposed as sewage water. If this water is treated and recycled, the problem of water scarcity could be solved to a large extent.


Two news items in dte (Vol 11, No 11; October 31, 2002) caught my attention: both on water. When I was in Singapore recently, I came to know about a dispute between Malaysia, the supplier of drinking water, and Singapore, the consumer. Half the requirements of water in Singapore are met with imports from Malaysia. Hence the tension.

The use of recycled water is a welcome step towards reducing dependence on imports of water. Conservation and recycling are the answers to water conservation, whether in India or elsewhere.

The decision by industries in Bangalore to use recycled water is good news. With each failing monsoon, drought-like conditions are forcing people to conserve water and harvest rainwater when the rain god smiles. The worth of water can be seen only in times of acute shortage. The time has come to see water as a valuable natural resource that may be in short supply, and is certainly not going to be cheap or free. The emphasis should be on using available water with care and not waste it.

Bangalore, Karnataka...

Healthy alternatives

Plastic is one of the major threats to our environment. The most prominent contributors to this menace are plastic carry bags, disposable cups and plates, packaging material used to pack chocolates and store cool drinks. These cannot be recycled more than once. Moreover, the process of recycling these toxic substances is terribly dangerous to the people handling it.

Plastic carry bags are mostly used for carrying fruits and vegetables. Using cloth bags can quite easily cut this down. Vendors often try to display their generosity by offering plastic carry bags to reluctant customers. People resort to these as they are convenient.

These days, most ceremonies or public functions also use plastic cups and plates. One understands that these articles are convenient and easily disposed. However, a possible alternative would be plates and cups made out of natural materials, like the outer skin of the arecanut tree and dried banana leaves. These small acts of concern can bring about considerable transition in our filthy urban environs.

One should also avoid drinks that are fashionably packed in plastic containers. Tea, coffee and tender coconut are healthy and clean substitutes. By doing this we are also discouraging multinational companies. Packaged food and chocolates are equally dangerous, as they need a lot of plastic for packaging. Indigenous and nutritious foods would be the most appropriate substitutes. Foods like mudde (ragi ball) and uppsaru (a simple curry that retains nutrition) have the additional advantage of guarding us from ill-health.

I hope my fellow citizens will consider this humble plea and avoid using plastics.

Tumkur, Karnataka...

Quick note

We received this response to a query from I M Prabhu Kumar of Bharat Earth Movers Limited (DTE, Vol 11, No 10; October 15, 2002), asking readers for suggestions on an environmentally healthy manner of discharging coolants.

If you discharge coolants in the fields, you contravene the hazardous waste management rules under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The rules stipulate that these must be issued to authorised recyclers of pollution control boards and the ministry of environment and forests. One such agency in Karnataka is Sri Durga Chemicals Corporation, and you may contact them for disposal on a regular basis. The address is given below:

Administration office
99/5, Laxman Rao lane,
B V K Iyengar Road Cross
Bangalore - 560 053
Phone: 080-2872421, 2871755, 2875716, 2383482
Mobile: 98451 79512

As regards your concern about smell and bacterial growth inside the coolant, an effective method of preventing this is to introduce a small amount of air inside the coolant, either through compressed air (which is expensive) or through a blower, whenever you go on shutdown like weekends. The bubbles will prevent bacteria formation.

In Lucas-TVS, we have also initiated an action for reconditioning the coolant. This increases the life of the coolant three times, i.e. if we are discharging once a month now, we could discharge once in three months. This reduces the effluent by one-third, and coolant oil consumption by 70 per cent.

Compact equipment, with filters (for cleaning the coolant) and ultraviolet lamps (for removing bacteria) are available. The equipment is not expensive, and is easy to handle. We had carried out trials with this equipment and are satisfied with its performance. One such unit is already functioning in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Trichy, for the past two years and they say that its performance is very satisfactory. I give below the address of a supplier of such equipment:

NCS Associates
1009, Mettupalayam Road, First Floor, Coimbatore - 641 002
Phone: 0422-426611
Fax: 0422-424018
Email: ncsassociates@vsnl.net

Trust this information is useful. We would be happy to help with further information.

Projects and environmental management representative
Lucas-TVS, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Re; after officialdom

Dear Sunita I just wanted to say you hit the nail on the head , as usual! Regards Ravi Samata/mm&P...


hello sir im a reader of down to earth for the past one year. i want to know if i want to send some article to be published in ur magazine whom shall i contact. on 30th november 2002 Times of india published a report saying that the govt was planning to construct a road to valley of flowers. which i think is will destroy hte ecosystem & there won't be any flowers left in the valley. One of my teachers Dr. Akhilesh S.Tewari (Botany department KMC ,Delhi University) is writing an article on this could u please publish it in ur magazine. waiting for ur reply thanking you Meenakshi Aggarwal...


hello sir im a reader of down to earth for the past one year. i want to know if i want to send some article to be published in ur magazine whom shall i contact. on 30th november 2002 Times of india published a report saying that the govt was planning to construct a road to valley of flowers. which i think is will destroy hte ecosystem & there won't be any flowers left in the valley. One of my teachers Dr. Akhilesh S.Tewari (Botany department KMC ,Delhi University) is writing an article on this could u please publish it in ur magazine. waiting for ur reply thanking you Meenakshi Aggarwal...


Greetings, we are a developer, manufacturer and distributor of Environmental Infrastructure products and technologies and we were referred to you as a source of possible manufacturers or inventors of De-icing Solutions, Dust Suppressants or Dust Control products for roads, sites, stockpiles and agriculture. We are very interested in obtaining a direct supply of environmentally friendly dust control and anti-icing solutions for our worldwide network. We are very successfully established in 64 countries and road building solutions is our mainstay. We are the dominant company internationally in the Environmental Infrastructure and road building solutions industry and our company has a very significant need for dust control and de-icing solutions for all of our outlets internationally. We understand that you are associated with producers/inventors that we may be interested in affiliating with and any information in this regard that you may be able to provide us with would be very much appreciated. We are in a very valuable position to technology inventors in that we can quickly commercialize suitable technologies worldwide in this rapidly growing industry. You will be able to view our web site at www.cypherltd.com at your convenience to learn more about our operations. Thanks and we look forward to your response. Best regards, Norm Burns President CYPHER INTERNATIONAL LTD. 391 Campbell Street Winnipeg, MB, R3N 1B6 Canada Phone: 204 489-1214 Fax: 204 489-7372 E-mail: admin@cypherltd.com Web site: www.cypherltd.com...


Dear Sir, At the outset I would like to congratulate you and your Magazine for very effeciently spreading the message of Conservation through most effective tool of awareness through the print and Internet media. I have been an ardent reader of Down to Earth from last few years and have found its quality improving day by day. I would like to suggest that you can gather lot of information on Conservation updates from the research activities undertaken in various National Parks & Sanctuaries through respective States or Forest Departments. I would like to send you a brief update of Research Management Activities being undertaken in U.P. and Uttaranchal states, which we (TERI) are managing for UPFD & UAFD respectively. With regards and best wishes, Dr. M. A. Khalid Coordinator, BRM Projects TERI-Lucknow 1/149, Vipul Khand Gomtinagar LUCKNOW-226010...

Reg the quick note in your issue dated Nov 30, 2002

This is with reference to the quick note by Mr. P.S. Srinivasan, Vice-president, Projects and environmental management representative, Lucas-TVS, Chennai, Tamilnadu, in your magazine issue dated November 30, 2002. We thank him for giving us a good feedback on our product "Emulsion Coolant Recovery Systems". Our system removes the contaminants like tramp oil, suspended solids and bacteria from coolants making it completely re-usable. We are available online at www.ncsassociates.com. Click on "Products -> Emulsion Coolant Recovery Systems". The product page has a presentation on our system and a FAQ section, which answers all queries regarding our system. We hope that this information is useful to engineering industries that are facing this problem and we would like to help them in recycling coolants and reducing costs by upto 85%. Thank you, Aravind Narayan, NCS Associates Coimbatore - 641 046 Email: ncsassociates@vsnl.net; contact@ncsassociates.com ...

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