Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

Success at 10 metres

This is with reference to the article Grassroots: Spurring people into action (Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 21 March 31). I wish to congratulate Loyram Deka for evolving the improved Bamboo Spur Technology for protecting the banks of the Brahmaputra. River training works are normally designed and executed within an established framework. This has been unsuccessful as is amply evident from the failure of the Embankment & Drainage department in protecting the banks. In my opinion, anchoring of the bamboo's about 10 metres deep is the key factor in the success of this technique over the conventional methods. This also creates flexibility leading to adoption of the technology in similar conditions. The e & d department could also taste success at 10 metres....

Geese conservation

I read the article 'Clipped Wings' (Down To Earth , Jan 15) with great interest. The conflict between farmers and bird conservationists is an old one. Despite increased awareness campaigns the situation remains grim in most places. The data of the British Trust for Ornithology ( bto ) regarding even the most common birds is indeed alarming. House sparrows are also fast dwindling in uk .

The article also reminds me of a slide show in April 1992 at Claever-Rock Barancle Geese Sanctuary ( near Damfried Scotland). Large number of birds of prey were shown killed by the poultry farmers by damning them with small grenade-like devices hidden in the dead sheep or chicken. Therefore, Barber's comment on Royal Society for Protection of birds ( rspb ) proclaiming everything to be in grave danger is unjustified.

The rspb has been actively involved in the conservation of birds. I have been part of some studies conducted by rspb on Geese in Aberdeen (Scotland). A conflict was simmering with sheep farmers blaming the geese for destroying the grass they grew for sheep. The rspb promptly brought several acres of the grasslands adjoining the wetlands, costing million of pounds, for the beleaguered Geese. Such activities of the rspb , has made it the darling of the bird conservation movement with more than 15 million members in uk alone....

Nilgiris plundered

A refrain heard among the inhabitants of Nilgiris, is that foresters are responsible for the destruction of their forests. Corruption is a common vice that is anathema for the precious natural wealth the Nilgiris have. Within a span of a few years, officials have plundered the Nilgiris biosphere reserve and have become wealthy overnight. The forest department from the beginning has done nothing to save the forests from depletion. Far from it, they have acted as agents of destruction rather than protectors.

A stark example of the nefarious activities is in the Mudamalai wildlife sanctuary and National Park. Here, the officials are using fallen teak trees for furniture for their guesthouses. Premsagar, of the Gudalur forest office caught a lorry load with black wood and teak. But the case was closed without any action against the guilty. Earlier only fallen trees were used, but now, trees are deliberately being axed by the foresters.

The trees are cut in Madhumalai and sent to Gudalur mills for sawing. Thereafter, they are taken to a furniture manufacturing units at Kargudi where they are used for furniture. On 24th March a lorry returning from the sawmill met with an accident exposing the logs that were being taken for sawing. The question is, who will stop this massive scale of destruction before its too late?...

Humpback whale rescued

On the 16th of February the Thoothur beach had an unexpected visitor. A 15 metre long whale, weighing 40 tonnes. It attracted thousands of curious people. Everyone stood in awe, as the whale lifted its huge caudal fluke and 3.5 metres long flippers. Discomfort was writ on its body as it sat on the hostile shore. It tried to open its mouth exposing the black baleen plates as water sprouted from its nostrils.

The whale belonged to species Megaptera novaeangliae, the humpback whale, famous for its song. Head was broad and rounded with the dorsal fin highlighted by the hump. It was caught by in net by the fishermen and dragged ashore mistaking it for a big catch.

When we at the Conservation of Nature Trust, heard about the whale, our primary concern was to keep the whale alive and prevent the development of blisters. The blisters render its survival bleak in the sea. The first trial of releasing it back was a failure as the nylon rope used to drag the whale snapped. The next day the rescue operation employed the services of two large 150 hp trawler boats and the coast guard. A 32 mm nylon rope was tied to the caudal fluke and another behind the dorsal fin. The boats pulled the whale back into the sea taking care of its flippers. When sufficient depth was reached the whale disappeared into the gurgling waters of the sea. It was the first time a leviathan had been rescued after being caught....

Killer pollution in Kolkata city

I read the issue of (Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 21 March 31) about the outbreak of the mystery disease in Siliguri. I want to share my own experiences about the stifling air pollution in Kolkata. Each time I return to Kolkata after a few holidays, I face eye and breathing problems.

The reasons are not difficult to find. About 60 per cent of vehicles are using adulterated fuels. With most police officials being corrupt everyone is having a free run. Two of my friends have joined the Kolkata traffic police and I accompanied them for a day. We identified 55 vehicles polluting the air but fined only three. The top brass had ordered not to fine all the vehicles lest it expose the inefficiency of the traffic police. In this game of apathy and corruption the commonman is paying with his life....

Tonnes of fodder burned

The ironies of life could not hit one harder. On one hand the cattle of the drought-hit states of Rajasthan and Gujarat starved because of the absence of fodder, and on the other farmers in Videsha district burned the remaining fodder that could not be cut by the high tech harvesters. To tide over this problem the farmers find it easier to burn their fodder than remove it manually. Fires have ravaged tonnes of fodder. This has led to the destruction of biodiversity, loss of fertility and valuable fodder. In order to put an end to this wasteful practice, there is an urgent need to stop the use of harvesters in the cutting of the wheat crop....

Noise pollution-overlooked

A fact often overlooked is that noise pollution in most Indian cities has assumed serious dimensions and has health consequences no less severe than air or water pollution. As per the latest data released by the Cental Pollution Control Board, the noise levels in residential localities of Ashok Vihar and Friend's Colony were 79 and 67 decibels respectively. Juxtaposed to the permissible average of 50 decibels. The hospitals are a shade worse inspite of falling under the silence zone. The All India Institute Of Medical Sciences recorded a staggering 83 decibels, higher than the limit prescribed for industrial areas. Moolchand followed with 71 decibels. Maharashtra fares no better with all the sites having a noise level of 72 decibels and more.

Noise pollution has a damaging potential that must not be overlooked. It can cause hearing loss, annoyance, high blood pressure, heart diseases and sleep disturbances. The Heart Care Foundation in New Delhi has observed that children studying in schools located near the roadside demonstrate higher incidence of high blood pressure due to the prevailing noise. The commuity noise level is a critical factor in speech determination. When the noise level reaches 80 db the hearing accuracy declines. Experiments in Canada have led to the conclusion that a persons sleep is altered when exposed to vehicle noise of 55 db. In India with most residential places showing noise level exceeding 70 db, its difficult to estimate the danger it poses to public health. The main sources of noise pollution in Indian cities are vehicular traffic, trains and factories. The situation is further aggravated by the propensity of our cultural norms, to produce the maximum noise on festive occasions.

A paradigm shift was evident on Diwali where students joined the anti cracker campaign. It is high time that similar exercises are carried out. Serious attention needs to be paid to the growing menace of noise pollution.

There is an urgent need to create greater awareness about the hazards of noise pollution. Cosmetic measures are not going to help. What is more essential is to have norms for all vehicles and to carry pollution under control checks for noise pollution as well. Owners unable to pass the test should be heavily penalised. Time for rhetoric is over. The need of the hour is well planned action....

Non plastic election gear

The chief electoral officer of West Bengal, Sabyasachi Sen in consultation with Kalyan Baghchi, chairman of West Bengal Pollution Board, has banned plastic in publicity materials. With assembly elections around the corner the move would discourage the abundant use of plastic flags, banners, festoons, which the pcb considers as a threat to the environment....

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