Published: Thursday 31 December 2009

Why go to Copenhagen?

World leaders, officials, journalists and activists from over 190 countries meet at Copenhagen to thrash out measures to combat global warming. The number of people attending the climate conference exceed 10,000. This huge number, almost 2 per cent of the Danish capitals population, strains its natural resources. For instance, considering that every dignitary enjoys three meals a day, at least 420,000 meals are prepared during the two-week conference. In addition, there is tea and snacks. One shudders to think how many million litres of water is required for the entire gathering.

Besides, the conference adds to global warming. Going by the statistics of International Civil Aviation Organization, an economy class travel from Delhi to Copenhagen, which is some 6,117 km, generates 776 kg of CO2. A premium class trip emits 1,552 kg of CO2. So one can imagine the amount of emission the meet generates. All these could be avoided if the UN organized the negotiations through video-conferencing. It works. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister holds a video conference every month with district collectors to review progress in the state.

Gandhi Road, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Compensating nuke plants

The compensation for land acquired for a nuclear reactor should be linked to the productivity potential of the landthe value of possible agricultural produce, for instance. The likely expenditure on frequent health check-ups and insurance for people living in the vicinity should also be added to calculate the compensation amount. This is necessary given the health risks associated with nuclear power plants (Radioactive mirage, October 1-15, 2009). I must remind here that a high number of leukaemia cases are found near the Krmmel nuclear power plant in Germany. Hazard-free nuclear power generation is impossible as of now.

A stipulated amount should also be added for expenditure following accidents like nuclear leakage. Another unforeseen expenditure could be the increase in cost of import and enrichment of uranium. The caucus of suppliers is sure to blackmail India, once we make investments in infrastructure.

Prof (retired) Mathematics
Panjab University, Chandigarh


I was shocked to read environment minister Jairam Rameshs remark that the toxic waste stored in the Union Carbide factory is safe to handle (Bhopal to get Rs 100 cr memorial, October 1-15, 2009). A minister must analyze the situation before speaking.

M Sampath Kumar
New Delhi Institution of Management

Why is UCIL apathetic?

Health risks from uranium mining and the effects of radiation are well known (Uranium miners strike work, October 16-31, 2009). Then why is the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd shrugging off responsibility and not meeting the miners demand for health cards and minimum wages?

The workers also need insurance cover and healthcare facilities for work-related diseases like tuberculosis and cancer. The government should intervene and make required provisions.

Jacob Sahayam

Cereals, pulses, vegetables

The article Exclusive cereal-dependence (September 16-30, 2009) claims eggs are nutritious and should be fed to malnourished children.

The idea is based on the western model prevalent in the 1960s, which insists on excess of animal protein. But in reality, rice and dal (pulses) together provide more protein than beefsteak. Cereals especially ragi, jowar, bajra and unpolished rice are nutritious and make a wholesome meal when taken with pulses, a little oil and vegetables. Milk and curd in small quantity from an Indian breed of cow is also highly nutritious.

Eggs should be avoided because of the unhygienic conditions in which hens are kept in poultry farms. They are confined in filthy wire cages where they can barely move and their beaks are cut off.

With lights on the whole night, they are forced to double their egg production. Their daily corn rations contain additives, antibiotics, hormones and colouring matter for a yellow yolk. Their normal lifespan of 10 years is cut short to 18 months and are killed as soon as their egg laying capacity diminishes. High in saturated fat and cholesterol, eggs cause allergies in some and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Besides, eggs are considered non-vegetarian in India. So packaged food containing eggs must be labelled.

Rosalie Malik

Clouded experiment

I was amazed to read the article Cloud seeded with burning tyres (October 1-15). Raja Marathe found the cure to drought, but at the cost of future. The article quotes farmers of Nanded district saying they dont care about pollution from burning tyres. But if it goes unchecked, the pollution would add to global warming and eventually affect their crops. The farmers should not be allowed to carry out the experiment on their own.

The safe process of cloud seeding involves spraying chemicals from a height with helicopters and Marathe has suggested this in the article. I urge farmers to restrain from such low-cost methods of inducing rain.

Karuna Tezpur

Capitalizing on 1 ha of rain

I have a suggestion for utilizing rainwater to solve the drinking water problem in villages (Rain or no rain, August 1-15, 2009). Assuming that the average annual rainfall of India is 1,000 mm, a hectare of land receives as much as 10 million litres of rainwater annually. Even if we manage to salvage 50 per cent of this rainwater, it would be sufficient for providing drinking water to 1,370 villagers, at 10 litres per head a day throughout the year. Procuring one hectare in a village should not be a problem. Rainwater can be collected and stored in traditional ponds or tanks. Loss through percolation can be minimized by lining the bottom of the ponds or tanks with plastic sheets. To check loss of water through evaporation, a light mineral oil could be sprayed. The method is economical and does not disturb the groundwater level.

nukaiah c padmanabhuni

ABC of climate change

An ably written article (2nd coalition of the willing: bad for climate and for us, November 1-15, 2009). But dont you think it is burdensome for a reader who does not know the nuances of this least-marketed subject. Is it possible for your magazine to do something so that more and more people become aware of this gigantic international problem by understanding the abc of it?

Please see Climate Change: Politics and Facts, published by Centre for Science and Environment. Editor

Down to Earth The need of the hour is to dismantle the western patent system that disallows the benefits of technology to be used widely to curb greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change impacts. This is a time for global cooperation, not competition.

So if the west is unable to keep its promises to cap or reduce its emissions as per the Kyoto protocol, it should allow the Indian and Chinese intelligence to help them bring down their high cost of compliance due to a high overhead economy, and let free movement of labour in exchange.

Sanjay Gadhalay

Pick of the postbag

Not a rubber stamp ministry
This is in response to Perhaps yes, minister (October 1-15, 2009) where you say: It is difficult to do worse than A Raja and T R Baalu; the (environment) ministry got reduced to a rubber stamp under their watch, clearing project after industrial project without so much as a sideways environmental glance. The remarks are also a reflection on the functioning of the ministrys officials. I would, therefore, like to react to this.

I was the Inspector General of Forests during 2002-2004, when Baalu was the Union minister for environment and forests. During my tenure, I did my best to streamline the clearance procedures by amending forest conservation rules and framed the policy contours of joint forest management. At no point Baalu pressured us to push through cases in a hurry or to clear any industrial project. We had rejected several projects to force mining companies to comply with environmental norms and cleared all rural infrastructure-related projects. About 20 per cent of people-centric development projects since the 1980s were cleared during that period. From early 2003, we displayed the project status on the ministry website. We introduced noting the minutes of the forest advisory committee meeting before 4 pm on the day it was held; this was reflected verbatim on the official order communicating the in-principle approval. Barring one or two cases, a look at the files would reveal no file remained on any desk for more than 24 hours and final clearances were given within 24 hours of receiving compliances from states. We also published books on the forest conservation act for public awareness and took up initiatives to protect tribal interests. No one can raise a finger on officers for malpractice during that period. We had proposed to charge an environmental cess of Rs 2 per tonne of minerals mined. The amount was to be used for the rehabilitation of displaced villagers. The plan could not be finalized as I left the ministry on June 30, 2004.

Technical Expert (Forestry)
National Rainfed Area Authority

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