Published: Sunday 30 September 2001

Tehri debate

The news item on Tehri dam (Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 5, August 31) creates a wrong impression that the dam is seismically safe. Many, including Russian experts, have stated that under high seismic conditions it will collapse. According to these experts Tehri dam has been designed to withstand an intensity of only nine (equivalent to magnitude 7 on the Richter scale). Until February 1990 the Indian experts assured the government that Tehri will not experience an earthquake of more than magnitude of about 7. But later the government realised their grave blunder on seismic calculations and revised the seismicity by 300-fold, from 7 to 8.5 magnitude (from intensity 9 to intensity 12). According to Russian standards such a site with intensity above 9 will be abandoned for construction of major dams because the sub-structure foundation is bound to fail at that intensity level and consequently the super structure collapses.

In 1979 itself the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was against Tehri dam and appointed an expert committee to look into this project from the environmental angle. The chairperson of the committee Sunil K Roy rejected this project. Yet the vested interests behind the project did not give up the project. Again the environmental appraisal committee of the Union government, comprising international experts in the fields of irrigation, civil and environmental engineering, geology, biological sciences and social sciences studied the project in depth and rejected it on scientific grounds. The expert committee appointed by the government in 1996 to review the project at the request of Bahuguna also clearly stated that the dam will collapse and that dam burst scenario and disaster management reports must be prepared before pronouncing a judgement on the safety of the project. But the government has never taken any interest in this regard.

Hence a popular magazine like Down to Earth should not be shy and imagine as to how the Sangh Parivar will influence the recommendation of the committee appointed to review the safety aspects of the dam in the light of the recent Gujarat earthquake. But should gather courage and organise a public debate on the crucial issues of safety.

Our reporter replies:
The decision on the Tehri dam must be based on scientific reasons, not religious ones as espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (vhp). Our story focused on how the Union government buckled under the pressure the vhp and constituted yet another committee, this time to look into the claims of vhp that building the dam will stop the flow of water and consequently destroy the self purification qualities of the river. What we fail to understand is how the same vhp fails to recognise that after Haridwar, when the water of the river is diverted into irrigation canals, there is no river left. Also, why the same vhp has never raised its voice against the pollution of Ganga -- defiling the sacred river. (see 'Pollution of Hinduism', Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 18, February 15, 2000). It is time we stopped playing politics. Down To Earth has reported, time and again, the problem of seismic activity in the Himalayas and the threat it poses to the dam. We continue to regard this as a serious problem that needs scrutiny and debate....

Water crisis in Kerala

Your comments on the situation in Kerala are basically correct (Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 6, August 15). Not only deforestation, but also conversion of land for tea, coffee and rubber plantation has altered the ability of water to enter the groundwater system. Another problem that you have not mentioned is the rapid development of roads and housing plots. Kerala has had an excellent network of streams, tanks and wetlands that intercepted and stored water for gradual use. Many of these have been disrupted by development. These intercept the natural movement of water, break up the natural collection systems, and put more of the run-off into the stream channel. The result, predictably, is increased flood damage and reduced water storage for use in dry periods. India needs to develop a system of water management that better tracks the input and use of water. The real losers in the current water use pattern are the villagers, the poor people, and those without political and financial clout....

AIDS cure

Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, used world-wide for the treatment of opiate and alcohol addiction, has shown unparalleled success when used in a low dose on patients with hiv/aids .

Bernard Bihari from the us , discovered the effect of low-dose naltrexone (ldn) by a study in 1986. A dose of 4.5mg naltrexone (less than one-tenth the standard dosage of 50 mg) is administered orally in a single capsule each night at bedtime. This raises the level of endorphins for an entire day, which, in turn, boosts the action of the body's immune system. ldn has no side effects and is affordable.

Of 155 patients treated for the past four years by using ldn in addition to antiretroviral therapy, over 90 per cent continue to show no detectable level of virus. This is a substantially higher success rate than for any other reported aids treatment.

Bihari hopes to license a local pharmaceutical company, free of charge, in any developing country that hosts a clinical trial of ldn . Providing the trial shows efficacy, it would then commit to producing the medicine for the benefit of their people. With local manufacture, ldn 's cost per capsule should be no more than a penny or two a day -- a hundred-fold less than the least costs projected for antiretroviral therapies.

Detailed information about this drug is available at the web site: http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org....

Nuclear safety

Nuclear power is by far the most controversial of all the man-made sources of radiation, yet it makes a very small contribution to human exposure. At present nuclear energy is contributing about 5 per cent of the world's primary energy and this is likely to increase considerably in the near future. Today the United States has more than 120 nuclear reactors, which is the maximum number so far. France meets 75 per cent of its power needs through the 64 reactors in the country. India has 14 operational nuclear power plants with an installed capacity of 2720 mw and some more projects are underway to achieve the goal of 20,000 mw . There are two major objections to the use of nuclear power: one is safety and the other is disposal of nuclear waste.

A single error can lead to a major destruction. Between 1944 and 1987, 284 nuclear accidents were recorded around the world including the Chernobyl. Nuclear power projects are different from the rest of the power projects because of the high risk involved. It is being realised all over the world that the ageing nuclear power plants are not safe. Recently experts were called for urgent attention towards geotechnical and structural safety aspects of the existing nuclear plants in India, noting that some of them were found to be close to seismic faults. In India the increasing demand for supply of electricity has led the authorities to plan for some new nuclear power plants. But what will happen, when there is an accident; to what extent are we ready to face the predicament?...

North hypocrisy

The resumed session of cop 6 at Bonn was a shameless display of hypocrisy of the North, the biggest polluter (Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 7, August 31). They always had a loud mouth over environmental issues but revealed their true self by exploiting the situation for individual economic gains. It is now time for the poorer nations too to lobby and push their agenda more vehemently in such global conferences. A global issue needs to be truly global. Enough of watching helplessly the manipulation of the rich and to meekly suffer the environment disasters conceived by them....

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.