Published: Monday 15 October 2001

Deadly chemical

Apropos editorial (Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 4, July 15) on the issue of methyl tertiary butyl ether (mtbe). mtbe has an extraordinary capacity to travel through ground water. A teaspoonful of it put in an Olympic size swimming pool will make it stink within seconds. This substance is a carcinogen for animals. Many countries including the us have banned its use. Having known all these, how can the petroleum ministry continues to allow its use. Intellectuals and lawyers should react to this. Public health can only be protected by court intervention....

Awareness needed

There is little awareness among the masses on the havoc being wrought on environment in the name of development and progress. The Kudremukh National Park in Karnataka is suffering due to mining activities in the nearby Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (kiocl) plant. Hills are being altered due to destructive mining. Moreover, the sources of Tunga and Bhadra rivers are getting polluted. The underground water too is contaminated with iron and silica.

The evergreen forests, with rich bio-diversity, are under threat due to mining and related activities. Disturbance to wildlife in the forests and park are quite apparent.

Water bodies are under constant pressure due to human encroachment. Pollution is common and authorities are doing very little to control it or clean it. Some non-government organisations are doing some good work, but this alone will not work. Unless the government and civic authorities wake up to their sense of responsibility, little progress can be achieved in keeping the tanks and lakes free from pollution. The time has come for a mass awareness campaign and for involving public in restoring health of the water bodies which host a number of species of fish and birds. Programmes to clean up the existing water bodies should be launched with people's cooperation. School and college students also should be asked to volunteer their services towards environmental conservation....

Nuke hearing

The tempo of the news about public hearing on Tamil Nadu nuclear reactor was wonderful and it has started helping our anti-nuke movements (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 7, August 31). However, there are a few errors in the article.

In the first paragraph it is mentioned the nuclear plant is to be set up in 'Kudankulam near Kalpakkam'. This is not correct. Kudankulam and Kalpakkam are two different places, which are about 300 kilometres (km) away from each other. The only common point between them is that both are located in the east coast of Tamil Nadu.

Kudankulam is located 30 km to the north of Kanyakumari (Cape Comerin), whereas Kalpakkam is located 60 km south of Chennai in the same coast. The controversial prototype fast breeder reactor (pfbr) is going to be constructed at Kalpakkam and not at Kudankulam. Kudankulam, on the other hand, is going to have two pressurised light water reactors (vver -100 / 392) of 1000 MWe each from Russia. The construction of these reactors is expected to start somewhere by the middle of 2002. The environment impact assessment for these reactors has not been done yet.

As mentioned in the article Russia is not going to assist the construction of pfbr in Kalpakkam. They are giving assistance only for the two reactors at Kundankulam. The pfbr is said to be an indigenous attempt by the igcar ; however, the design of the pfbr is said to be based on the fast breeder test reactor (fbtr), which is functioning at Kalpakkam from 1986 and is based on the French fbtr Rhapsodie.

Also the name of the local member of legislative assembly is wrongly mentioned as Phirukka T Arumugan instead of Thirukkachur Arumugam. Except for these errors the article has presented the proceedings of the public hearing in the most objective manner....

Empower forest officials

Amendment to Orissa Forest Act with sweeping powers to the forest officials is really surprising (Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 4, July 15). In a way it is good that forest officials are empowered to take action against the violators. But on the other hand, there is also a great danger of the powers being misused by officials. Ultimately it is the department of forest that should implement these amendments effectively. I would suggest all other states should go ahead with this kind of amendments so that our precious natural resources are protected....

Carbon treatment

The article on pesticide poisoning is very alarming (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 6, August 15). Treating drinking water with activated carbon can remove pesticides from water. Activated carbon is extensively used in water and wastewater treatment....

Origin labelling

It is encouraging to read your advocacy of establishing science-based characterisation and quality norms for agricultural and agro-industrial products, as indicated by the examples from France (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 7, August 31). These characteristic names or denominations are recognised and can be defended in the courts - an important consideration in respect of a global economy.

Similar systems for designating certain categories of agricultural produce also are common in Spain, Italy, and Germany, among other European countries. These names or designations may be assigned by the central authority or by local and producer associations. Champagne famous for its wine was officially designated as an area on a map by the French authorities. This has enabled growers within the designated area to establish a strong producers' association, which sets down criteria for production and quality.

In addition to wines and spirits, cheese and meat products, other characteristic food commodities such as lentils or olives and olive oil from designated areas also are protected by a "denomination of origin" label. Processing and marketing of produce, often raised on small-holdings, often occurs at units and other facilities owned and operated by cooperatives of producers. This ensures that the "added value accrues to producers, and that individual growers can overcome obstacles they otherwise encounter in getting better incomes.

Clearly, government and the courts have to enable the legal environment taking such initiatives. This suggests that there is a certain value attaching to a judge, or lawmaker, being proud of his or her discriminating palate, and encouraging the citizen to develop similar skills. Of course, fine food is not necessarily cheap food. Producers however, are not obliged to aim for the "denominated origin" label, and do not beneift from the premium that such recognised produce can command....

CNG conspiracy

I am really tired of reading newspaper reports regarding Delhi government's failure in meeting the court deadline for converting all the busses to cng by September 30. Some newspapers are publishing highly exaggerated reports against cng . One bus caught fire due to spurious cylinders became a headline for one day. The queues for cng filling and the plight of drivers became the next day's headline. I agree there are queues on all the filling stations. But they are not as big as being claimed by reporters. Official apathy in the whole affair is very clear. Why is this not being highlighted? Inderprastha Gas Agency says to have opened 72 outlets, but most of these are daughter stations. Average capacity utilisation of all these outlets including online stations is not more than 35 per cent.

In open, the Delhi government is blaming Centre and vice versa. What I find amazing is that none of the reports has tried to analyse the real reason behind this possible failure. These people have some vested interest in writing in such a biased manner without going in depth of it.

No one in the state or central ministry is really interested in converting commercial vehicles to cng . How does it matter to politicians or bureaucrats that pollution is creating havoc to masses? After all, who owns these petrol and diesel stations? Most of these are being run by politicians and bureaucrats in some others name. How can they tolerate loss in their business? Then comes the powerful lobby of exporters and importers of petroleum products. Politicians have started talking of cng imports to meet the demand. This is again an eyewash. The reserve of natural gas in India far exceeds the reserve of diesel or petrol. Its extraction and processing is also cheaper.

Every body is aware that this is a big business. In India diesel has taken such a turn that you cannot think of it without adulteration. Those who are talking of ultra low sulphur diesel or something of that sort are living in fool's paradise.

The reason that drivers are not interested in driving cng vehicle is very clear. There is no chance of stealing the fuel and reselling it. Especially those drivers who are driving government vehicles are dead against it....

Waste management

You are correct in saying that burning plastic in the backyard is amongst the largest unaddressed dioxin sources (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 7, August 31). But what else can a common man do if there is no infrastructure for removing and treating waste. Even the best functioning municipalities can handle only 80 per cent of the total waste. The situation is becoming worse in rural areas. Household waste concerns everybody as we are all responsible for it....

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