Published: Sunday 30 April 2000

Pollution of Hinduism

This is with reference to the article 'Pollution of Hinduism' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 18; February 15). The author has rightly posed the question: how long can Hindus keep poisoning the Ganga and then take a dip in the same holy river to wash away their sins? The throwing of bodies, immersion of chemically painted idols of Hindu Gods into the river, discharge of hazardous effluents of chemical industries have turned the Ganga into a deadly cocktail of pollutants.

I would like to quote what Justice Kuldip Singh of the Supreme Court said while delivering the judgement on the closing down of 29 tanneries for polluting the Ganga. "Millions of our people bathe in the Ganga, drink its waters with an abiding faith and belief to purify themselves and to achieve Moksha -- release from the cycle of birth and death. It is tragic that the Ganga, which has for time immemorial, purified the people is being polluted by man in numerous ways by dumping garbage, throwing carcasses of dead animals and discharge of effluents."

The article has highlighted the fact that Hindus have themselves to blame for poisoning this holy river. This article should force the authorities concerned to take appropriate action. It should also spread awareness among people so that they stop polluting the river....

The truth about science

This is with reference to your editorial 'polluting politics' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 19; February 29). The apprehension of scientists from the Tata Energy Research Institute ( teri ) that the use of compressed natural gas ( cng ) as a fuel may add to global warming may be based on the fact that the role of methane as a greenhouse gas has been universally accepted by the scientific community. The hidden advocacy of diesel engines may be coincidental, but keeping in view the materialistic approach of humanity as a whole, misuse of scientific knowledge for aselfish motive cannot be ruled out. Maybe, someday a scientist may come out with a truck load of data in support of smoking at the behest of some tobacco company.

The common person is helpless and has to suffer at the hands of these intellectuals. In today's world, such misinformation may cause serious damage to the society. Such half-baked knowledge may create room for misuse by interested groups like political parties or industrial houses for their selfish benefits which may endanger life support systems on the Earth.

It is time to rationalise our priorities and come up with solutions to combat air pollution....

Coastal disputes

On November 16, 1999, more than 500 people held a peaceful protest in the Garai market area in Mumbai to voice their concern against dilution of the Coastal Regulation Zone ( crz) rules by the state government to give coastal areas to industrial houses for commercial operations. In the process, they were defying the imposition of Section 144 which prevents the gathering of more than five persons in a place.

The protest was organised by a number of local organisations including Akhil Maharashtra Machchimaar Kruti Samithi. Its president, Damodar Tandel, said: "The previous government violated all crz rules and regulations to gift about 283 hectares of mangrove lands to Esselworld. This way the state government lost nearly Rs 124 crore."

"Esselworld can violate crz rules and they go scot free. But if people raise their voices, they are arrested by the state," said Sushiela of Stree Shakti Sadan, another organisation fighting for coastal people....

Filthy water tankers

Congratulations for your campaign against air pollution in the capital. I travel by a charted bus for two hours everyday to reach office and Down To Earth keeps me company.

While gazing outside the window, I notice how things are changing for the worse. One day I noticed a row of water tankers parked in front of a municipal corporation water supply joint. These tankers were obviously supplying drinking water to some areas of the capital. I was amazed to see the dilapidated condition of these tankers. Many of them did not even have lids, and some were rusted or broken. Nobody knows whether these water tankers are cleaned regularly. It is time Down To Earth takes up these issues to sensitise the people of this country....

Green crusaders

I enjoy reading the Grassroots section of your magazine. It is heartening to read about local communities in India who are striving to work for a cleaner environment. There are many non-governmental organisations ( ngo s) and environmental crusaders in India but their activities are not well known -- they have little interaction or exchange of ideas. While surfing the Internet, I came across an organisation in Europe which coordinates work done by the numerous ngo s. I think the Centre for Science and Environment can bring about social change in the country through the integration of people and ngo s striving for eco-conservation.

In my opinion, water pollution is the biggest threat to our country, even more than air pollution. Today one cannot even think of washing one's face or hands in the Yamuna in Delhi. To imagine that the river is the only source of water for the rural people living downstream numbs one's senses.

The biggest polluters of our rivers seem to be the municipal corporations who dump sewage from cities and towns directly into the river. More than the industry, it is domestic waste which is the biggest polluter. Your recent article 'What goes down must come up' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 7; August 31) on groundwater pollution made interesting reading. But don't you feel that the situation is a byproduct of bad sewage disposal planning by the departments concerned? Sadly, there is little concern about sewage disposal, whether it is industrial or domestic. Domestic sewage not only pollutes the environment, but also contaminates groundwater....

A problem of waste

The article on the biological method of hospital waste management ('Nothing goes waste', Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 6; August 15) made interesting reading. Hospital waste poses a serious threat to public health, especially in the urban areas, where the number of healthcare centres are growing rapidly. Therefore, an experiment to develop an effective biodegradable method deserves serious attention.

The author mentions that they use the 'medicompost' to grow plants like dhatura , aak , and ban-tulsi which are used as medicinal herbs in Ayurveda. But something needs to be reassessed. According to Ayurvidic methods, the place from where the herbs are collected is a matter of high importance. It is said that herbs collected from a cemetery or temples should not be used for preparing medicines. In these places, the compost pit may be formed from tissue debris and amputed organs. This may affect the phytochemistry of the plants and also their bio-energy level. So, even though it is healthy to develop such biological methods for waste management, it will not be so to use the byproduct for medicinal or food purposes....

Waste management

In the absence of an organised way to treat domestic waste, cities and towns in India have turned into super slums. The problem has assumed alarming proportions as a result of the neglect of domestic solid waste management, criminal handling of hospital waste and unchecked industrial development around cities.

Realising the gravity of the situation, the Supreme Court, in January this year, set up a committee to examine the problem of solid waste management in cities that have a population of more than 10,000. The apex court has directed the committee to examine the existing practices and suggest hygienic processing and waste disposal technologies on the basis of their economic feasibility and safety. The committee is expected to submit its report by June 30.

The Supreme Court deserves praise for taking the initiative to tackle this problem. India, as is well known, wakes up only in an emergency and then takes short-term measures to tide over the crisis. With urban centres gasping for sanitary living conditions, the Central Pollution Control Board recently came up with an action plan for waste management after experts said that the outbreak of plague in Surat in 1994 was due to the accumulation of water and garbage.

The state of civic amenities in the metropolitan cities is in a pathetic state. According to a World Bank-financed survey, about two million people in Mumbai do not have any toilet facilities. It is estimated that only 50-70 per cent of the 5,000 tonnes of garbage generated in the city is collected by the municipal corporation. The situation in Calcutta is not better. The city generates about 3,500 tonnes of waste everyday, of which about 1,700 tonnes is organic waste. According to a survey by scientists at the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, as much as 2,500 tonnes of waste is being generated by hospitals in Calcutta every day. These wastes could prove to be a serious health hazard for the residents of the city.

The key to keep cities clean lies in organised civic life and proper disposal of wastes. There is no dearth of technology in the country, but it is not being put proper use. Above all, a strong political will is necessary to implement anti-pollution laws....

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