Published: Saturday 15 March 1997

Out with it!

In your Editor's page (Down To Earth, Vol 5, No 15), you have written that "ideally, I would not like to see Greenpeace operating in India". Other than purely nationalist sentiments, your reasons for saying this are not clear. We can definitely understand your disappointment over the failing of the Indian ngo movement on pollution issues, and Greenpeace has a record of targeting governments and big corporations in developed nations rather than bullying Third World nations.

To us the ideal solution seems to be a more cooperative effort between Indian ngos and Greenpeace in which the latter will provide technical expertise while the former will provide the local perspective.

Dallas, USA

The editor replies
The reason I do not want to see Green peace operating in India is partly nationa list. I do not see any reason why the Indian civil society cannot throw up its own institutions to deal with the environmental problem. However, the issue is not entirely nationalistic. I have great appreciation for the way Greenpeace functions but I also feel that there are tremendous shortcomings in their work which I have written about extensively and have also discussed with my colleagues in Greenpeace. Since it is also a part of the civil society, I would appreciate it if, instead of opening an office in India like any other multinational company, it adopts a different approach. I would like them to work with Indian ngos to build up their skills to be able to organise themselves like the ngos in Western nations. Your suggestion that Greenpeace should provide the technical expertise and Indian ngos should provide the local perspective is well taken. The cooperative mode you have suggested would be very useful....

Waste not want not

In the absence of a pragmatic approach towards understanding the fragile ecosystem of the Himalaya, waste management in the hills has been a total failure. Tourism and pilgrimage have certainly helped in improving the living standards of the hill-folk but at the same time have transformed the hill stations to tourist slums. The inadequacy of the infrastructure becomes evident during the peak season when population densities become as high as 1,000 to 1,200 persons per sq km. The obso lete methods of waste collection and dis posal crumble under such pressure. Waste is dumped all over the hillsides and acute water shortage and sewerage failure become a common occurrence. Recourse to landfills without analysing the chemical composition of the waste materials slows down decomposition of organic matter. The presence of non- degradable materials like polythene bags further complicates matters. They choke the water streams and channels, affecting the catchment area on the one hand and asphyxiate the soil on the other.

Burning the waste is not a solution as it merely changes the chemical composition and toxicity of the waste materials. Since different waste materials have to be treated differently, burning wastes without first segregating them releases compounds and metals which lead to numerous environmental and health problems. Besides, burning will certainly alter the temperature of the hill regions....

Gunning for trouble

The Van Gujjars of the Shiwaliks have for generations shared an intimate communion with nature. Their lifestyle and culture is inextricably linked with the forest ecosystem.

However, the peace and tranquillity of the forest has of late been shattered by the decision of the forest department to allow the army to practice firing in three forest blocks -- Sahsara, Kotdi and Kaluwala -- in the Mohand and Shakumbri ranges.

The Gujjars are not given prior war ning of the firing by either the police, fire department or army. The shots take them by surprise, giving them no time to protect themselves. The cannon balls, weighing approximately 20 to 30 kg, explode just about anywhere. About 50 to 60 shots are fired every day and the shrapnel could be fatal to the unwary forest dwellers.

A survey by two members of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, a Dehra Dun-based ngo , revealed rampant destruction of trees.

It is ironical that the forest depart ment, which claims to be conserving the forest and the wildlife in it, is instrumen tal in bringing about this destruction....

Praise galore

It was a great pleasure to read the article 'Just (w)right' ( Down To Earth, Vol 5, No 13) by S Faizi. Even a debate on a new international order in communications has been closed and we remain manipulated by western media powers. I compliment people like Faizi who help keep the issue on the agenda. I also thank this 'young knight of the Third World' for throwing up an apt description of biased western reporters -- "sewage scribes"....

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