Published: Wednesday 31 December 1997


In the writeup 'Marking neem' (Down To Earth, Vol 6, No 12; November 15, 1997) it was pointed out that the identification and development of neem clones by Indian scientists will boost the export of neem-based products. At the same time, there were reports that a us company was granted a patent for a neem-based pesticide. This would mean that we cannot afford to be complacent with our victory over turmeric in the us patent office.

There is an urgent need for documentation of thousands of our medicinal plants and other requisite measures to protect and preserve them from biopiracy. It is said that the Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research Institute at Thiruvananthapuram alone has some 2,750 species of medicinal plants.


A matter of habit

While travelling in a train from Mumbai to Nasik in November, two foreigners were in the same compartment as me. One of them was carrying a plastic bag containing fruits including bananas and oranges. As the journey started, they began eating the fruits. One of them peeled a banana, and after eating the fruit, he inserted the skin in the carry-bag. Peels and pips of oranges also ended up in the bag.
After they had finished the fruits, I thought they would throw the bag out of the running train. But to my surprise, they did not. On reaching the destination, I was keen to know if they would leave the bag in the train compartment or throw it away. On the contrary, they carried it with them to the platform, looked for a dustbin, and deposited it there. I was pleasantly surprised by their awareness of cleanliness. Are we in a position to emulate such habits to keep our environment clean?...

Placement ads

I was pleased to see a placement advertisement in Down To Earth (Vol 6, No 12; November 15, 1997). I believe that it is very important to publish advertisements and details of forthcoming projects such as the Global Environment Facility (gef). I request you to encourage advertisements for placement of specific environment-related positions in various organisations....

Sturdy plants

Going through one of your back issues, I came across a vital piece of information regarding rural technology ('Saline succour', Down To Earth, Vol 4, No 3; June 30, 1995). The article referred to plants of Salicornia species, which thrive in saline soils and can be used to feed humans and cattle, at the same time providing raw materials for industry. I found this to be very useful for farmers whose lands are affected by saline soil conditions.

The prevalent desalination process is very expensive and beyond the reach of most Indian farmers. Thousands of acres of land hve become unproductive as a result of high salt content. Disproportionate use of chemical fertilisers and excessive use of water have caused our soils to become saline at an alarming rate. Cultivation of plants of the Salicornia species could be one way of dealing with the problem...

Sacred and polluted

Gangotri, the Hindu pilgrimage centre in the Himalaya, is facing a multipronged environmental degradation from erosion and deadly, nondegradable wastes. The omnipresent polyvinyl chloride (pvc) in the form of polythene bags and plastic bottles can be seen littered on the verdant slopes, giving them colours of all imaginable shades. As the administration provides only 10 safai karamcharis to collect and dispose of wastes from nearby areas, the amount of filth and degradation can easily be left to the imagination.

Even if all the trash is collected, how do they dispose it? The Gangotri conservation project proposed the installation of an incinerator to deal with the problem in a period when these are being phased out in developed countries such as Germany and the us. The chemical composition of pvc is such that burning it produces gaseous wastes such as dioxins, that are carcinogens. Would the administration show some foresight, or even hindsight, in dealing with the matter?...

Obituary of industry

It was a stimulating experience to read your editorial 'Green fascism' (Down To Earth, Vol 6, No 10; October 15, 1997). It opened a new vista for the people who are concerned about development and the environment. It is only people like you who have disseminated environment literacy with scientific and academic foundation. Your ideas need to be popularised across the country. Otherwise, the day may not be far when we have to write the "Obituary of industrialisation of the country"....

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