Published: Friday 31 August 2001

Water warriors

I would like to highlight certain facts about the profile on Jawanlal Rebari who has initiated watershed programme in Rajasamad district of Rajasthan (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 4, July 15). Jawanji is a member of Seva Mandir, an ngo in the area and he started his crusade with their support. The article gives an impression that Jawanji saved the area from the clutches of Seva Mandir and carried out the work on his own. Moreover, Barawa village has conducive topographical and geohydrological conditions for successul watershed programme. I am writing this letter not to highlight the cause of Seva Mandir, but the right message should have been disseminated to the readers by at least mentioning that he has the NGO's backup.

Anindita Kali
Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Down to Earth replies:
The article does not seek to create any ill-will but has only documented a series of individual leadership efforts in community-based water harvesting. The article only mentions that "villagers were misinformed about the land" and does not project Seva Mandir in a negative light nor Jawan Lal as fighting against the organisation....

Devastating hill slopes

I do not agree that the hill folks do not devastate the hill slopes (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 4, July 15). In Nepal, most of them who live in the hill slopes cut down trees for farming. The yield from these fields are decreasing year after year due to over exploitation. Moreover, soil erosion is severe in this area due to the absence of tree cover. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides pollute the numerous streams of the slope. It is time to look into ways of protecting the hill slope without drastically uprooting the communities living in the area. Alternative cropping patterns, growing of fruit trees and maintaining tree cover should be encouraged among the hill people. ...

New laws

The author has presented only one side of the coin in the article on new amendments in Nepal's forest laws (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 4, July 15). He did not recognise the role of bureaucracy and has made an attempt to portray Nepal's forest bureaucracy very anti-people, which is not true.

The Government of Nepal has decided to follow collaborative forest management approach in the case of Terai, Churia and Inner Terai district. As per the decision the government will manage the big block of forest for national interest and isolated patches of forest, shrub land and barren land will be handed over as community forest.

Participation of the local community is also sought in the forest managed by the government. Forest products such as fodder, fuel wood pole and small timber that comes from the management of the forest will be provided free of cost to the local people in lieu of their participation. In addition, 25 per cent of the revenue earned by selling of timber will be given to the concerned village development committee (vdc) and district development committee (ddc) for local development works.

In the article it is mentioned that 65 per cent of the earnings from the community forest is to be given to the government by the forest user groups, which is not true. The reality is that 40 per cent of the money earned by selling of timber outside the user group from the community forest will be made available to vdc and ddc to run forest related programme.

In the article, the author quoted the statement of K B Shrestha, deputy director general, community forestry division and department of forest, but in fact, he had not been interviewed at all. Contrary to what was mentioned in the article, forest department is not going to control the community forest instead it wants to strengthen its user groups through sustainable management.

Uday R Sharma
Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Our correspondent replies:
Down to Earth holds Nepal government's initiative as an example for the entire region. It is for this reason that we were particularly concerned when we received information from ngos as well as policy makers in Nepal that the government was under pressure to change its policies.

The story is self-explanatory, and is not an attempt to show any person or organisation in bad light. We stand by our facts and figures. The calculation of 65 per cent of revenue being paid to the government is the sum total of money the forest users groups (fugs) now have to part with (40 per cent of revenue from timber selling in addition to 25 per cent to village development committee and the district development committee). Under the current arrangement, fugs keep aside 25 per cent for forestry development at their level itself. I spoke to K B Shrestha, deputy director general in charge of community forestry under the ministry of forest and soil conservation over the phone for his comments on the amendments. ...

Clean transport

Delhi figured in the Urban 21 conference that took place in Berlin a few months ago on the subject of living conditions and the problems faced by mega cities. It discussed many ambitious projects promoted by the heads of the city to make the capital of India cleanest in the whole country. This presents a long-term and very complex task with significant issues like energy supplies and traffic structure. Another recently broadcast programme dealt with the difficulties faced in converting the vehicles of local public transport from diesel fuel to natural gas. Our attention was directed to your institution and made us look for contacts with organisations like yours for possible cooperation.

We are into project management and offer services for organisations which show interest in environment-friendly and energy saving alternative transport concepts. One of our business partners has designed an innovative electric car, which was tested and developed upto series production stage.

We realise the high objectives of cse which are often ignored even in the industrialised countries, can be reached only through cooperation with political institutions, committed associations and organisations. We would like to get in touch with partners in your country like the local chamber of commerce, the department of traffic and other automobile companies to set up production centres for electric vehicles.

Since India and Germany are currently on everyone's lips for being partner countries in the sector of information and communication technologies, joint innovative developments in the field of environment and technology would help both the countries as well.

Oliver Hild
Pro Capt
PF 14 20. 99304 Arnstadt
Tel: +49/ (0)36421/ 32340 ...

Protecting mountains

It is good news that the United Nations has declared 2002 as the international year of Mountains. Our country has been boasting of the Himalayas, Shivalik, Aravali and the Vindiyas and yet we have neglected them the most. The yearlong focus will help the people to understand the damage they have done to the mountains and how it can be minimised.

The Jammu and Kashmir Paryavaran Sanstha has been trying to educate the people to adopt new ideas and technologies to ensure minimum loss of soil in the region. At present due to increase in population, the biotic pressure has resulted in encroachments of the forest and mountains. As a hilly region, the state should have 66 per cent forests, but has only 19 per cent at present. Even these are under exploitation. Cultivation along the hill slopes has led to the erosion of the topsoil.

When we focus on protecting the mountains, we should also look into the problems facing the people living their. They should be taught about sustainable farming without causing threat to the environment. Switching over from agriculture to horticulture including medicinal plants and herbal farming can be good alternatives.

Govershan Singh Jamwal
Jammu ...

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