Published: Sunday 15 April 2001

Effect on ecology

Just like human life, the ecology, too, has suffered adversely because of the pollution arising out of the saree polishing and printing unit operating next door (Down To Earth , Vol 9; No. 17 January 31, 2001). Two years ago, the coconut trees in my compound were yielding rich fruit and the size of each coconut, after removing the husk, was fairly big. But now, their sizes have decreased. Scientists should look into this, and guide the public and the government on how to avoid such environmental degradation.

Apart from this, the noise pollution here is unbearable. This is caused by the cacophony of machine, blaring horns of vehicles, yelling of drivers and labourers and a myriad other nuisances.

An unauthorised platform has been constructed near the front wall of my house. Buckets full of garbage are kept on the platform that emit a strong stink. No one else in the area resorts to such uncivilised acts. The politicians cutting across party lines and crafty bureaucrats patronise these people. A peace loving, innocent, law-abiding senior citizen is, thus, taken for a ride....

Insensitive officials

It was painful to go through the article 'Getting under the skin' (Down To Earth , Vol 9; No. 17 January 31, 2001). I can cite my own experience in attempting to offer my (free) services to the pollution control board in my hometown Tirunelveli after retirement. My letters to the Central Pollution Control Board and secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Tamil Nadu have both been acknowledged but I have received no replies to them. This is happening to a scientist, who has served both the central and the Maharashtra pollution control boards in various committees while in service. I had even passed on my biodata to the Union minister for environment as well as to the only existing local institute for environmental studies attached to the university at Tirunelveli. I got no responses from here either.

The district office of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board was close to my residence last year. I contacted the district officer and talked to him on the phone. He gave me an appointment in the following week and advised me to check on phone before starting from my house to make sure that he was available on the appointed day. When the day arrived next week, I found the office had shifted more than 15 km away! Surely the officer must have known about the impending shift and still decided to play a practical joke on a senior citizen who was only offering his services to help in environmental matters making use of his past professional experience....

No response

The report on K N Narayana Pillai (Down To Earth , Vol 9; No. 17 January 31, 2001) is really shocking. We are living in a civilised society and a democratic country but the citizens have to run from pillar to post for redress of grievances. The government machinery is very insensitive. Public servants have no time to listen to the problems of an ordinary citizen. They refuse to even write a line in reply to their communications.

Field officers are always away in the field and officers who are supposed to be at their desks are busy with meetings.

You have suggested a rider in the shape of a heavy fine when a court order is not complied with but what solution do you have to the problem that an ordinary citizen is rarely taken seriously by the public servant...

Logged in

I find the coverage on Information Technology (it) in rural areas (Down To Earth , Vol 9; No. 18 February 15, 2001) excellent in that it provides a reality check and highlights both the positive and negative aspects. This should be helpful to those committed to bringing the benefit of it to rural areas, learn the right lessons and apply them appropriately.

We should systematically think of some method or technique by which success stories can be replicated as quickly as possible throughout the country. We must thus be able to initiate a chain reaction leading to an explosive growth of it to benefit the people of the country, particularly in rural areas....

Food from waste

There is need to increase qualitative livestock production and poultry population for increased number of eggs and chicken meat to counter drought and famine conditions in the country.

India has very low area of fodder crops and pasture land with decreasing forest cover. This has led to a crisis in fodder and water for animals. There is a pressing need to make alternative arrangements from other sources while keeping in mind conservation of the environment as well. The only way to do this is to use large quantities of unused agricultural and other wastes as fodder.

The country produces about two-and-a-half crore metric tonnes of khoi (outer coat) of cane sugar all of which is thrown away. If this is treated with steam at the rate of 7 kg per square centimetre for half an hour, its digestibility increases by 55 per cent and it becomes palatable for animals.

Similarly, about two lakh tonnes of khali (outer coat) of 'rubber' seeds are wasted every year. This can be mixed with fodder in a 1:5 ratio for crossbred animals daily to increase their milk production.

Khali of mahua (Bassia latif) , saal (Shorea robusta) , karanj (Pongemia glabra) , kokam (Garcinia indica) should also be used likewise. We can also recycle and use various crop seeds such as babool (Acacia caesia) , imli (Tamarindus indica) , and sinduria (Bixa orellana) . Bhusa (outer coat) of sunflower can also be used to make complete food for sheep.

All these agricultural and other waste materials that are disposed off and accumulation of which cause pollution hazards in the environment can be turned into useful cattle and poultry feed during drought and famine....

Carcinogenic tractors

The cancer potency index has emerged as an important tool for risk assessment the world over. Potency levels of diesel exhaust from Indian cars are more than twice of that from petrol. The German government finds diesel cars to be worse than that of petrol cars.

Many readers of your magazine may not be aware that more than 2.5 lakh tractors are sold in India and now the trend is to use heavier tractors which leads to increased consumption of diesel and, in turn, higher quantity of exhaust.

Unlike cars, the exhaust pipes of the tractors are fitted in front of the vehicle. When tractors run, a good portion of the exhaust is inhaled by the drivers, thus exposing them to severe health hazards.

Apart from the exhaust, the drivers also inhale fine particles of dust raised by the rear wheels of the tractor.

They also suffer from deafness because of high decibel noise vibrations caused by the tractor that also affect their spinal chord and intestines. A recent study by the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur reveals that recurring droughts are caused by tractors as reported in Rajasthan Patrika of December 30, 2000.

There is an urgent need for a comprehensive study on the ill effects of the tractors on environment, soil erosion, drought and health of the drivers.

The Supreme Court decided in a Public Interest Litigation (pil) filed by five truck owners that plying of tractors on roads was illegal but the order was continuously violated and, surprisingly, the state transport authorities have not taken congnisance of the Supreme Court directions....

The poor eight 'sic' goats

In the light of the spread of mad cow disease (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalitis), I would like to draw your attention to a few facts.

Three goats, afflicted with mad cow disease and imported to India by one Elizabeth Provest from the us, were not killed and cremated in electric crematorium as required by the rules of the Live Stock Importation Act, 1953.

Instead of sending these goats to the us , the country of origin, these were allowed by the department of animal husbandry to be transported to Kathmandu, Nepal. Now, according to the notification issued by the Government of India, no live cattle can be imported from Nepal because of the incidence of the mad cow disease in that country.

Eight Saanen goats bought by the Rural Agricultural Institute, Narayangaon after having them duly certified that they were not afflicted with the mad cow disease, were not accepted by the Government of India. They were kept in a quarantine office from May 13, 1999 to August 13, 1999. Thereafter, they were killed and cremated in the electric crematorium. The funny part is that the ashes were sprinkled over a hospital garden. This shows that the animal husbandry department has no protocol on disposing the ashes.

Our institution was told by the government that it could not have let the import of these goats from Israel as then India's export market for meat would have suffered.

It is then the duty of the government to ensure that no animals are smuggled through the porous Indo-Nepal borders. One also wonders how a country like the us allowed the three goats afflicted with the mad cow disease to land in Mumbai without any health certificate....

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