Letters

 
Published: Friday 10 July 2015

Reaping benefits

The article 'Prosperity and beyond' on Ralegan Siddhi village in Maharashtra (Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 10; October 15) was inspiring. The village should be a role model for villages nationwide. The most noteworthy aspect of the story is that Ralegan's success is the result of one person's vision -- Anna Hazare. His 'mantra' includes everything from development and social issues, conservation of resources to even consensual politics. Let us fervently hope that Ralegan's youngsters do not forget the past and surrender themselves to frivolities and hypocrisies of urban life. Recently, a television channel reported about a village in Kerala without any bridges or ferry services. The villagers rope-walk to reach the mainland. The panchayat (village council) has no funds to build bridges. If only there was an Anna in every Indian village, most of the problems would be solved. ...

Comfort, at what cost?

The article 'Old batteries, new rules' (Down To Earth Vol 9, No 9; September 30) was extremely informative. Being a power engineer, I am alarmed at the number of inverters people are using nowadays. Do you have any information on the number of inverters being used in India and whether concerns have been raised on the possible health risks posed by them? Many of the batteries lie in close proximity to a kitchen or the bedroom.

The editor replies:
I have not come across anybody who has data on the number of inverters being used in India. Maybe there is an inverter manufacturers' association, which will be able to give you this information. If you wish, I could try and find out. If lead batteries lie in close proximity to a kitchen or the bedroom, which is true also in my house, do you think it poses a health problem? I thought lead posed health problems only when it reaches the environment and then enters the air, food or water. I have often wondered whether electromagnetic fields created by inverters pose any health problems ...

Luxurious hazards

Apropos 'Notify radiation level' (Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 10; October 15), a recent report from the uk indicates that radiation from mobile phones affect the health of those who use these phones regularly. Further, it states that younger people are more susceptible to brain damage and tumours due to constant use. Instead of just dismissing the possible health hazards due to radiation, cellular phone manufactures should put a statutory warning on these phones stating that prolonged usage is injurious to health. More importantly, as far as possible children should not be allowed to use them. Prevention is better than cure!

Another issue that is not getting the required attention is using mobile phones while driving. This practice can divert the attention of the driver and cause an accident. A nationwide ban on using cellphones while driving is also desirable. ...

Reality bites

The article 'Genes, Dreams and Reality' (Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 6; August 15) deserves wide public attention. The prevalence of chronic and degenerative diseases is a matter of serious concern. But our decisionmakers, politicians and bureaucrats, deliberately or otherwise, prefer to keep the information to themselves. Worse still, even the medical community seems to have joined hands with them. Under such circumstances, non-governmental organisations such as the Centre for Science and Environment are left to initiate public movements to bring such matters to the fore. ...

Real teaching

Recently, an open-air class on environment and science for schoolchildren was organised by the Democracy Environment Society in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Eleven students from four schools participated. Through interactive games, the students were made to understand human-nature relationship and how the poor are the first victims of environmental degradation. ...

Burning practises

This is with reference to the article 'Hide burns' (Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 7; August 31). The shocking experiences of Krishna Devi Motier and Sitaram of Kishanpur in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, who are suffering from skin burns and other disease caused by toxic effluents discharged by tanneries did not surprise me. According to experts and scientific institutions, including the Nagpur-based National Environment Engineering Research Institute (neeri), tannery effluents can never be fully treated. The Indian Council for Leather has recently suggested that effluents from the common effluent treatment plants in Tamil Nadu should be discharged into the sea. The same suggestion has been put forward by the tanners in Nagpur. They are already releasing their effluents into the river Ganga. Unfortunately, corrupt politicians and government officials protect the tanners, who violate environmental protection laws. ...

Useless argument

Apropos 'What a waste' (Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 8; September 15), the statement that "waste generated in India has a low calorific value, is largely organic and, thus, not fit for burning" has been used by Down To Earth as an argument against incineration and waste-to-energy (wte) technologies. The question that needs to be answered is what do we do with waste that cannot be composted, need not be landfilled or can be incinerated under controlled conditions. The fact that some countries have set up large-scale wte plants, which need a monstrous generation of waste to run viably, is definitely not a valid argument against the technology itself, but against its ignorant use or inappropriate scale.

I would rather welcome an article on waste incineration and wte, which offers guidance to those who are honestly looking for appropriate and integrated solutions. What we need is small practical solutions.

Our correspondent replies:
That article was based on the conference organised by Toxics Link, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation. There is no single solution to the growing problem of waste management in India. wte is a concept that is being discarded by the West. So before accepting it completely, we need to be sure of both its economic and environmental viability. wte technology has some drawbacks. It leads to emission of dioxins, the implementation cost is very high and lastly it is not a proven technology. The only wte incinerator that was set up in India in the 1980s did not work for more than 21 days....

Save Hyderabad

A number of non-governmental organisations and environmentalists in Hyderabad have come together and formed a forum called 'Hyderabad Bachao' (Save Hyderabad). The main aim of the forum is to improve civic conditions in the city.

One such issue is tourism. Members are concerned about measures taken by the Andhra Pradesh government in the name of tourism. These measures are violating all environmental laws and regulations and are extremely damaging to the ecology. Projects have been launched before conducting environment impact studies or public hearings. To seek help of those concerned about Hyderabad's environment, the forum has launched a website . ...

Killing pollutants

Banning the use of unleaded petrol in Delhi is not the only solution to curb air pollution. Leaded petrol emits high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (pahs), which are carcinogenic in nature. Unfortunately, authorities concerned are not bothered about pah emissions or their cancer-causing potential. So far, no emission standards have been set. As a matter of fact, even pah levels in the atmosphere are not monitored. It is time the government took immediate action as millions of lives are at stake. ...

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