Published: Monday 30 November 2009

A reminder for the Prime Minister

This is in response to the editorial Single drops of water make the mighty economy (September 16-30, 2009). In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the creation of the National Rainfed Area Authority from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He said since large parts of the country depend on rainfall, the authority would focus on increasing the productivity of rainfed areas through water harvesting and conservation.

Labour for these watershed projects was to be covered under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (nregs). While the authority is yet to start functioning as an autonomous institution, the prime minister seems to have forgotten his own announcement. At a recent conference of rural development and panchayati raj ministers from states, he referred to nregs as a mechanism for drought relief as it has given purchasing power to the rural population. His government is thus considering a proposal to expand the scope of nregs by including non-farm activities.

Such indulgence towards non-farm activities to create purchasing power would prove detrimental for farming activities. The countrys mighty economy must have purchasing power, but alongside, it needs to enhance food production capabilities through soil and water conservation.

The governments Bharat Nirman programme, which aims to improve basic infrastructure in rural areas, also needs to be amended to give water recharge activities a better chance.

Cavalry Lines, University of Delhi

Down to Earth We are not short of rain, but short of water. If we can store rainwater, it would be as good as conquering drought. For example, rainwater collected in a hectare of land can quench the thirst of a small village. It works out cheaper than a bore well with storage tank and other paraphernalia.

Rather than giving priority to rainwater harvesting for drinking water, we keep tapping groundwater. This is like withdrawing cash from a bank deposit instead of spending the pocket money.


Down to Earth It is ridiculous that politicians in our country promise free water and electricity to farmers for the sake of votes. This only adds to the problem. Yes, water is a fundamental right of every citizen. But free water is no solution. A balance has to be maintained. Everyone has to pay their fair share to ensure water security.


Down to Earth The three Es that will be more important over the next 30 years are not education, employment and eco-nomy but environment, energy and empowerment.


Down to Earth I remember the memorable line by the eminent environmentalist, the late Anil AgarwalCatch the drop of water where it falls. I think we are yet to understand the value of water.


Focus is on funds, not water

We talk a lot about water, but not much is done in real terms (Rain or no rain, August 1-15, 2009). All water bodies in the countryponds, lakes and coastal watersare being systematically killed. A lot of money is spent on renovating water bodies under the nregs but not enough is being done to revive our age-old water systems in villages and towns. This is because the emphasis is on utilization of funds for the sake of it and not on building assets. This is the reason that even after spending so much money we have not been able to ensure adequate collection and storage of rainwater.

About four decades back, I was part of a project that used water hyacinth, a common weed, to treat wastewater. The weed can purify various types of wastewater including water contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides. The project was carried out in Delhi and Bihar. The findings were presented at various forums but there were no takers. Much later, similar work started in other countries and they are already using the technique successfully.

Director, Ministry of Environment and Forests, asrarulhaque@hotmail.com

Down to Earth The countrys water problem will only worsen if India persists with its policy of planting thirsty monoculture trees (eucalyptus and jatropha, for example) to address global warming. Several organizations in the country are vying to earn carbon credits from industrialized countries under Kyoto Protocols clean development mechanism through plantation projects. But such large-scale plantation of a single species not only rob the soil of certain micronutrients, they affect the regions ecosystem in the long run; plants like eucalyptus and jatropha that are planted for immediate gains since they grow fast also lead to groundwater depletion.


Poets can counsel too

It is silly that now only agricultural university graduates can counsel farmers in Tamil Nadu (Deschooling farmers, September 1-15, 2009). Every plot of paddy field in Tamil Nadu has a bund (varappu in Tamil) around it. A poet had once recommended the bunds be raised to conserve water; this would prevent aridity and increase productivity. Today this knowledge is relevant not only for paddy fields, but also otherwise. It checks rainwater from going waste.


Polluters first

Jamaica is right in arguing: if the technology (carbon capture and storage) was so good the developed world should adopt it, build with it and thenonce risks were minimizedtransfer it (Another co2 alition of the willing? June 16-30, 2009). Indias former commerce minister Kamal Nath too had put forth similar arguments saying those who polluted most should act first.


Minister, do your homework

The news report Bhopal to get Rs 110 cr memorial (October 1-15, 2009) left me speechless. In a developing country like India where people dont get enough to eat even in the 21st century, how can a minister heading the ministry of environment and forests waste taxpayers money on building memorials to commemorate tragedies? The money could instead be used to provide basic amenities to the survivors of the gas tragedy who are getting poisoned drinking water even after 25 years. Moreover, Jairam Rameshs comments expose his ignorance about the environment and other related matters. He needs to do his homework before shooting off announcements.


Too many authorities

Authorities for every little thing cause fragmented governance and not following up on their activities makes them toothless with no responsibility or accountability (Why authorize it? October 1-15, 2009). The fragmented governance, even if it works, is doomed to failure because of conflicting goals and constraints of each authority.

The US is finally realizing that holistic views of governance must necessarily start with holistic views of enterprise and it is slowly starting the journey towards representing the holistic view of the enterprise as enterprise architecture.


Down to Earth I travelled into the unknown world of wonders with the poetic narration of In mirage country (September 16-30, 2009). Even though I had heard of Bedouin life, the travelogue gave me new information. Thank you for depicting a down-to-earth life.

A M RASHEED, Principal,
M E S College Nedumkandom, Kerala

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