Published: Monday 30 September 1996

Heated pursuit

I was thrilled with the analysis 'The enemy within' ( Down To Earth , Vol 5, No 4). However, the article does not say anything about unclean habits that lead to rheumatic heart disease and tobacco smoking which causes cancer.

Kitchens in homes of the poor should be redesigned and fitted with slabs whose dimensions couldapproximately be five cm by 15 cm, positioned at a height of five cm. Over this slab, women should place their chulha s (stoves). Their chulha s could have a chimney. If women stand and cook, the inhalation of carbon monoxide and particulate matter will substantially decrease. They should also be advised to use steel utensils which are more durable and non-polluting.

The use of biogas was proposed nearly 70 years ago. Many good designs for biogas plants have been suggested. But since most people are not prepared to work regularly with organic garbage, not much success has been attained. It is not difficult to set up good biogas plants, but one has to lay down the pipelines so that the gas could reach people's homes. This makes it a very costly proposition. The alternative is to compress the gas and then expand it so that the carbon dioxide can be liquified and removed. The rest of the gas can be compressed and filled in gas cylinders, which can be supplied to people's homes on demand.

The removal of carbon dioxide will increase the maximum flame temperature to nearly 110 c . Such a management of organic garbage will provide particulate matter-free and cheap fuel and organic fertiliser, minus the flyash problem....

Short cuts

Appropos to your special report 'The unsilenced valley' ( Down To Earth , Vol 5, No 2), the indigenous method of irrigation adopted by the adivasis of Madhya Pradesh is a community-oriented task for survival. The tradition of such efforts is present even in Banaskantha district of Gujarat and in Danta taluka , in particular. The Bhils living in the hilly areas of this region too had adopted this technique. However, this method was taken up only by those families whose lands could benefit from the water and was done after the monsoons when the flow of river water stabilised.

This method of irrigation remained operative till the advent of pumps and schemes providing easy finance and encouraging subsidies. The latest trend is to draw subsoil water and use electricity to run pumps for doing so instead of toiling with flowing water. The subsoil water is gradually dropping in level and farmers have had to use more electricity (which is equally scarce) to draw the diminishing water....

Alien invaders

Through this letter I wish to draw your attention to an issue which is posing a serious threat to the fragile coastal ecosystem of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The introduction of foreign live material by some unscrupulous parties in the name of economic development is what is jeopardising the islands. It is also very unfortunate that certain government agencies -- without realising the seriousness of the damage likely to be caused by these activities -- are supporting and aiding them.

It is reliably learnt that there is a move to import fish seed from Malaysia and Singapore to breed them in cages in the waters of the Andamans for subsequent export. Only recently did legal intervention manage to stay the move to introduce exotic species of fish like the gilthead sea bream and European seabass. Frustrated by this, fresh attempts are now being made to import fish seed supposed to belong to a species found in Indian waters. Such claims are being emphasised so that the objection to their being brought to India could be overruled.

It is well-known that the introduction of cage culture to the area will greatly affect the wonderful coral reefs found there. Wastes like leftover food and excreta from the cultured fish would pollute the reefs which provide shelter and food to innumerable marine beings including reef fishes and crustaceans, which support valuable fisheries. Moreover, the islands' coastal communities depend on these reefs for their livelihood.

As for the import of fish seed from foreign countries, being produced in an alien set up, it may well be accompanied by unknown evils like parasites and diseases.

Selfish government officials encourage such activities with no concern for the serious havoc these activities can cause to the pristine environment of the region, which is a key area for the conservation of biodiversity and our natural heritage.

May we request you to kindly inform the ministry of environment and forests about your views on the matter at the earliest, as the entrepreneur has already completed the construction of the hatchery building (in violation of the fact that it falls under the coastal regulation zone) and has all the equipment in place....

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