Published: Friday 10 July 2015

Vanishing vultures

The article 'What's eating the Vulture' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 16; January 15) is a cause of concern for all of us. Because of its overuse by farmers countrywide, lethal insecticides are entering the food chain. Mother's milk and even rainwater contain traces of this silent killer.

Observations about the decline in the population of vultures are correct and also alarming. Not only vultures, but insectivorous birds like warblers, Pipits, Chats, Robins and many such species are succumbing to heavy doses of the insecticides being sprayed by our farmers.

In the picture displayed below vultures died on the spot after consuming the flesh of a dead cow. This happened near the Moti-virani village of Kutch district. I have seen dead falcons near fields on many occasions. The decline in their numbers is due to poisoning of their food, poaching and habitat destruction. Other species too, fall prey to the misuse of insecticides. I have come across unhatched clutches of Raptors like the Tawny Eagles and White-eyed Bustards. The thinning of egg-shells and infertility is also caused by the insecticide in their food chains....

Unanswered questions

The rejoinder 'A (W)holistic view' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No22; April 15) made interesting reading. The state of the environment in Ankleshwar is unspeakable. Even though pollution in Amlakhadi has reached its nadir, the government's regulatory and monitoring authorities seem to be non-existent. Rajat Banerji's reply to the objections raised by the industry is fitting. It is only fair to publish the opinions expressed by the aggrieved persons. However, I would like to make some comments:

Ashok Panjwani's statement that the incinerator ash, but not organic waste, is dumped in the landfill, is contradictory. Incinerator ash contains dioxins, which are some of the most poisonous organochlorines. Has ash from various sources been checked for dioxins?

Jochen Vida's statements are based on a totally different system of working, where standards are enforced and defaulters are punished. The water of Amlakhadi in Ankleshwar is not only foul smelling but highly acidic. The annual average figures for p h of Amlakhadi as published by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board ( gpcb) in its 1996-97 annual report shows that the non-monsoon p h values are highly acidic. These findings were corroborated by members of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. The gpcb officers should be suspended for negligence of duty.

I would like to stress on the point that Banerji has made: the issue should not be the asphaltic liner, but whether the "secured" landfill of Bharuch Enviro Infrastructure Limited ( beil) is really secure. And how can this be evaluated? Within 2 km of the landfill, wells of Sarangpur village discharge blood red water in vast quantities. If gpcb cannot regulate what is visible, can we expect it to monitor or regulate such finer details of an asphaltic liner? The residents need to know what these unknown toxins are doing to the people. The industry and gpcb should check for those parameters for which norms are stipulated. What are the unknown toxins? And who is responsible for their effects which will become evident much later?...

A beacon

I had heard about the work of Tarun Bharat Sangh ( tbs ) in regenerating the villages of Alwar. But it was a revelation to read about it in Down To Earth ('Waters of Life'; Vol 7, No 20; March 15, 1999). That a civil society group can do such extraordinary work came as a surprise. In times when the reputation of non-governmental organisations is increasingly becoming suspect and their effectiveness is being questioned, tbs 's achievements are like a beacon. Why cannot the government learn from the organisation? Why have successive governments frowned upon India's indigenous technologies? I would like to see political parties take up the initiative and include in their election manifestos plans which recognise indigenous technologies. The civil society should pressurise governments to act on these plans. It is good that Down To Earth gives recognition to the work of organisations such as tbs , because the mainstream media seems oblivious to these issues, caught up as it is in the banalities of Indian politics....

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