Published: Wednesday 31 March 1999

Water debate

This is with reference to the cover story on rain water harvesting 'A social force called water' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 10; October 15). The caption on page 30 gives the impression that the pictures on page 30 and page 31 are interconnected. This is incorrect. The picture on page 30 is one of our housing projects and that on page 31 is a part of a housing project of R Jeykumar whose views have been quoted on page 32.

While Jeykumar's arithmetic on page 32 is flawless, the fact remains that the system propounded by him has not been implemented. The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board ( cmwssb ) has said that every house that seeks a sewerage connection must first install one of the several alternative systems of rainwater harvesting. Although their move is pioneering and highly laudable, in reality it has been observed mostly in the breach.

Even though the cmwssb introduced rainwater harvesting in January 1994, formal implementation commenced only in January 1997. Further, their system was not a very efficient one. However, in 1993 Alacrity Housing Ltd introduced its own more efficient system. Shanta Sheela Nair, the chairperson of the cmwssb, recognising it to be so, had cleared it as an acceptable alternative in June 1997.

Since 1993, our system has been installed in more than 150 projects covering more than 2,000 flats and is in the process of being introduced in an equal number of flats under various stages of construction.

Also, our system not only recharges the groundwater table but provides the means of drawing tapped water for use from the traditional dug well. About 60 per cent of the projects are served by such wells and dug wells where rain water harvesting systems are being introduced in projects delivered prior to 1993.

To the best of our knowledge, no builder in India has used an integrated water management system of this type in such a large number of projects. We are now studying ways to popularise this system all over India.

Our booklet has established a simple eco-friendly system to treat grey water in housing complexes and this has just been introduced in situ in a few of our own projects. This system offers scope for recharging 50 per cent of the water drawn from the sub-surface and can with some modifications, even be utilised for sewage treatment. It is essentially a soil treatment process that does not use any power or chemicals.

You will thus see that our integrated water management system is economical, effectively applicable even in the so-called urban "concrete jungle," and self-sustaining.

Vice-chairperson, Alacrity Foundations

Pollution watch dogs

In my opinion, there is only one solution for setting up pollution watchdogs in every city. If people sharing a common agenda, having reasonable communication skills and above petty considerations, can come together, then tackling pollution-related problems will become easy. One such group is that of ex-servicepersons. While the trickle-down and collateral effects of coordinating such a move will take some time to become apparent, there is no doubt that such a movement will meet with success, especially if local benefits are made evident to them when they are still in service.

I know from personal experience that my contemporaries in the armed forces are already convinced about the benefits of such strategies and are just looking for clean catalysts.

Some of the finest success stories as far as local environmental issues are concerned have been written on the armed forces. At the same time there have been others who have done outstanding work. Anna Hazare is just one of them.

New Delhi ....

Fruits of good governance

Having heard Digvijay Singh, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, at the national conference on traditional rainwater harvesting systems on October 3-4 in New Delhi, I was convinced that he was doing a good job. But I did not foresee the possible political spin-off at that time. Perhaps as a soldier I only looked at it from the angle of doing things the right way. But after going through your well-presented analysis 'Performance pays' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 14; December 31), I am convinced that if this message goes down to the politicians I am sure it can bring about a silent revolution in governance. We have the best laws and policies, but we do not implement them. That is bad governance.

I had initiated a two-and-a-half hour discussion in the legislative council of my state on the need for a corruption-free, transparent and people-friendly administration. Digvijay Singh has set an example. I gave a copy of dte 's story to chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who has been fighting militancy and striving to give good governance, and also to some ministers and bureaucrats so that they are enlightened.

Member of Legislative Council,
Jammu and Kashmir....

Picture imperfect

The picture in the crosscurrents 'Plastic peril' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 15; December 31) contradicts my opinion that "plastics are useful but their use and disposal should be bound by a strong policy". The earlier picture provided in the proof approved by me was different and went well with the article.

New Delhi....

Green concern

The two photographs displayed below are scenes we witness everyday in our lives. The photograph on the left was taken in Friends Colony, New Delhi. Civic authorities plant saplings, but do not take care of them. Plants like these invariable die and the tax payer's money goes down the drain.

The photograph on the right is of Khurja, a city in Uttar Pradesh, which is famous for its pottery. While travelling from Delhi to Aligarh, I noticed that industries in this area were causing a lot of air pollution. Are the authorities concerned sleeping?

New Delhi....

Plea to a chief minister

After reading Anil Agarwal's article, ('The house that Digvijay built' Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 15; December 31) I was impressed with Digvijay Singh's work. But it must be kept in mind that Madhya Pradesh is a large state and there are many areas that are in immediate need for watershed projects. I am working in at least 80 villages in the Khargone district (western Nimar) of Madhya Pradesh where farmers have been growing cotton organically. Western Nimar is a place that needs immediate attention. I request Digvijay Singh to turn western Nimar into another Jhabua.

Mhow, Madhya Pradesh....


I talk to around 5,000 young people in schools and colleges every year. Of late I have been asking these children if they have a relative or friend who was a cancer patient. To my amazement, around 30 per cent of the class put their hands up. My sister's son and husband both have cancer. My brother's daughter has cancer. I am currently doing the rounds at the Tata Memorial hospital to accompany my nephew who suffers from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

I sometimes wonder why we have been saddled with the imbeciles who govern our destinies today.

Received on email....

An apology

Due to an inadvertent slip on the part of the undersigned, a cartoon was carried on page 14 ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 20; March 15) which could be construed as ridiculing the institution of Parliament. The undersigned deeply regrets and apologises for the same.

Ajit Chak
Copy coordinator....

Aliens in our midst

This is with reference to the article 'Small Wonder' ( Down To Earth Vol 7, No 14, December 15). The photograph on page 7 was too humanoid for an alien and we would like to know whether it was an aborted human or monkey foetus. What studies have been done to analyse this 'Small Wonder'? What was the individual cell structure like at the microscopic level? What was the skeleton like on the x -rays?

Kolhapur ....


In 'Waters of Life' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 20; March 15 ), the text and pictures that should have gone on page 35 inadvertently went on page 34 and vice versa. The error is deeply regretted....

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