Published: Saturday 31 January 1998

El what?

The article 'Winds of change' (Down To Earth , Vol 6, No 14; December 15, 1997) about change in Pacific Ocean currents known as El Nio was very informative. It clearly brought out the danger posed by this mysterious phenomenon to our nation. The comment made by eminent agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan that India does not have any contingency plan came as a surprise. Predictions by the Indian Meteorological Department with regard to the monsoon and rainfall turned out to be totally incorrect as there was a drought in Tamil Nadu. Heavy rainfall was noticed in the later stages of the monsoon, causing floods and severe crop loss. This seasonal variation in India could have something to do with El Nio. In future, we must be ready with a contingency plan....

Disregarding logic

The article 'Lost in the Thar' (Down To Earth , Vol 6, No 14; December 15, 1997) was quite informative, particularly the aspects of changing crop pattern on land and the subsisting biomass at large. But the hazardous outcome of bringing water from Ravi and Sutlej rivers to Rajasthan through a network of canals can best be explained as utter disregard of geomorphological attributes. These should have been considered before designing the canal network and the virtual absence of a monitoring system to regulate the cyclic use of canal and groundwater.

If the planners had taken pains to study the spatial distribution of landforms along the canal -- the dunes, inter-dunes, the alignment of palaeo-channels, the identification of sedimentation cycles at different spots, and locating the subsurface impervious layer -- most of the present problems could have been avoided.

The farmers in the area can be held responsible to some extent. Overuse of the canal water, minimal use of groundwater, and the cultivation of multiple cash crops has given rise to waterlogged areas, and consequently, alkaline and saline soil.

The need of the hour is the constant monitoring of various aspects of canal irrigation, including cyclic crop cultivation, controlled fertiliser application to maintain soil fertility, alkalinity and salt levels. Some of the existing palaeo-channels can be revived to divert excess canal water. The involvement of different government agencies, scientific bodies and non-governmental organisations is required to tackle the problems related to Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojna in the Thar desert....

The science of Ayurveda

I read the special report 'Hypothetical cure' (Down To Earth , Vol 6, No 13; November 30, 1997), and have some comments in this regard. Ayurveda falls under the purview of laws regulating drugs and cosmetics in the country and it is the duty of the government to ensure that quality control measures are introduced and followed. The demand for quality control measures increases constantly with civilisational changes, making these absolutely essential today. The government has already appointed a pharmacopoeia committee and established a laboratory for the same purpose.

Ayurveda is a science that has been practised for more than 5,000 years. It has been of immense benefit since times when there were no allopathic medicines. In ancient Indian literature that deals with Ayurveda, there are several descriptions of plants that did not originate in India. This shows the pains taken by the scientific community of that period in travelling far and wide to collect the plants and studying their properties.

Ayurveda cannot be termed as a hypothetical cure as hundreds of people have found Ayurvedic products of immense benefit. Moreover, there is enough documentation to prove the benefits of Ayurveda. To belittle a science is not befitting on the part of science magazines....

Remember Indira Gandhi

In the light of the us stand in the climate talks at the Kyoto Conference, I request you to publish some relevant quotations of Indira Gandhi. Almost 25 years ago at the Stockholm Conference, she was one leader who showed a lot of concern when she made the following comments:

"Pollution is not a technical problem (but a problem) of values of the contemporary world, which ignores the rights of others...

"How can we speak to those who live in villages and in slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers and the air clean when their own lives are contaminated at the source?

"Neocolonialism...comes wrapped in all types of packages...in technology and communication, commerce and culture. It takes boldness and integrity to resist it."

Indeed, the packages can be part of an environmental treaty....

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