Published: Sunday 15 March 2009

The X factor

The cover story 'Fat of the matter' (February 1-15, 2009) has brought a number of hidden facts to light and has made a lot of people sit up on their sofas and take note of it. Even the health minister has reacted positively to the report.

I love the aroma of mustard oil and it came as a great relief to me that it had been bracketed in the good oils category. Millions of people in eastern India have been using mustard oil for centuries for a variety of purposes, for cooking as well as massage.

People in the villages believe that if you massage your scalp with mustard oil, you will not grey early as happens in cities. The oil is even used to massage new born babies to give their bones that extra strength.

I don't know how much credence can be given to these notions and practices, but empirical evidence shows they hold water. Mustard oil has some kind of X factor.

The report has also blown the lid off many of the fancy oils by revealing the discrepancies found in them when tested in a laboratory and what they claim on the labels.

I hope the government would immediately act on the report and make it mandatory for the manufacturers to make full disclosure on the products. That would help people choose their oil intelligently.

binoy sharma

Down to Earth The industry has made us consume refined oils for long. We have forgotten the aroma of food cooked in good, healthy oil and prefer packaged, junk food. The Generation Next does not even know what it is like to have food cooked in real oil.

manoj narayan

Down to Earth Can't we revive the traditional cold press methods of extracting oil? Why did we have to move away from traditional edible oils, throwing small oil merchants out of business?

meenakshi srinivasan

Down to Earth There is a need to overhaul government policy making. Public and civil society organizations should not simply be consulted; they should be made partners in the process.

Today, policies that affect our lives are airdropped on us. Could the ministry of health have issued such pointless labelling guidelines if a non-profit was part of policy making?

rakesh agarwal

Down to Earth All oils are more or less the same with regard to health. No oil has cholesterol in it in that form. It is the body process that converts the oil into cholesterol. If one wants to avoid any bad effect of oil, they need to reduce the consumption.

suresh maidargi

Slipped on oil

It is not Satyam in our oil but Enron ('The Satyam in our oil', February 1-15, 2009). Indians consume edible oils depending on their availability. That is why coconut oil is largely consumed in southern India and mustard oil in the north. But palm oil lobbyists advocated the use of palm oil, saying coconut oil was harmful, when palm oil is actually more harmful.

The government too wants to favour the market, so it is getting people to consume oils which are mostly unhealthy. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, palm oil is sold cheap and used to adulterate other oils. All hotels and eateries in these states have replaced coconut oil with palm oil.

Malaysia is the biggest exporter of palm oil in the world, but Malaysians do not use it. India allowed the National Dairy Development Board to import palm oil and sold it as a market intervention strategy. Recently, coconut growers of Kerala prevented the import of palm oil through Kochi port.

The politicians are not concerned about the health of the people; for them it is money and power at any cost.

boothalingam mahathevan

Carcinogen in my tooth paste

I have come across disturbing information on sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate, used in shampoos, toothpastes and other personal care products. Both are carcinogenic, inexpensive and very effective foaming agents. I wonder if the government has any regulations on the use of harmful chemicals in personal care products.

c n shashidhar

Ranthambhore is not Indo-Malayan

The book review 'Birds and bees of a tiger park' (November 16-30, 2008) says the scientists regard Ranthambhore tiger reserve as a gene-pool for posterity and an ecological island of the Indo-Malayan variety. Who made this ecological classification, the authors or the reviewer?

Ranthambhore falls in the bio-ecological province of semi-arid region of India and not in the Indo-Malayan region. The north-eastern region and the Western Ghats--from Maharastra to Anamalai hills of Tamil Nadu along the coast of Karnataka and Kerala--comprise the Indo-Malayan region which is characterized by evergreen forests and a rich plant and animal diversity.

b m t rajeev
Retired ifs official

Rail, not roads

India has a shortage of cultivable land. While forests and agricultural land are shrinking rapidly, ever larger tracts are being diverted for making roads. This threatens food security.

Railway tracks in comparison take less space. Railways also meet our increasing transportation needs more efficiently. Trains are environment friendly as they consume less energy than cars and buses. Moreover, in India and China, 160,000 people die in road accidents. As the number of cars increases, accidents on the road also go up.

amit tyagi

Soil malnutrition

At a time when agricultural land is producing less every year, sugar mills are diverting the bagasse they generate to produce electricity.

Earlier, the bagasse found its way back to the soil providing it with much needed nutrients and improving the organic matter in the soil. Now, the government is converting some 4.37 million tonnes of bagasse to biofuel to generate electricity with gasifiers.

Sugarcane production in Tamil Nadu has come down from 22.3 million tonnes in 2007-08 to 18.3 million tonnes in 2008-09. The yield per hectare (ha) has also dropped from 91.8 tonnes to 83.73 tonnes per ha. In 1977-78, the state's yield was 104.6 tonnes per ha.

But then who cares about improving soil quality? Not the government, certainly.

k v s krishna


The article on cfl was informative ('Let there be cfl', January 16-31, 2009). The issue of proper disposal of cfls and storage batteries has been raised in the past, but we still do not have a well thought out approach to e-waste management. With the volume of e-waste increasing everyday, it is time retailers took the responsibility to recycle.

The Bureau of Energy and Efficiency must impart clarity on how the waste will be managed and who will do it.

rameshwar p agrawal


Taming of the watchdog

Your editorial talks about the media being toothless ('The public relations republic', January 16-31, 2009). I think the entire media in India is hand-in-glove with corporates. When things become unpalatable, they cover the facts to some extent, but not get to the whole truth.

aju mukhopadhyay

Environment in the times of meltdown

Environment becomes the first casualty in hard financial times. Corporates do not pay heed to environmental issues when the very existence of their business is at stake. As they begin cutting down on expenses, they first calculate how much they have been spending on doing less damage to the environment. During such hard times the government too is willing to turn a blind eye to violation of environmental regulations.

I would like to read in your magazine how businesses are bypassing environment-related expenses in these times of financial trouble.

nataranjan bohidar


In the cover story 'Let there be cfl' (January 16-31, 2009), the name of R H Khwaja, additional secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, has been misspelt as A K Khwaja.

We regret the error.

Chilika's new mouth

There are apprehensions regarding the new mouth that opened naturally in Chilika at Gabakunda on August 1, 2008 ('Mounting trouble', September 16-30, 2008). This is not the first time the brackish water lagoon in Orissa has developed a new mouth as satellite images collected at intervals since 1973 prove that Chilika's openings into the Bay of Bengal keeps changing. There have been instances when more than one opening or mouth existed. Thus, the fears that the latest one will affect the shoreline villages and the hydrology and biodiversity of the lagoon are baseless.

The new opening developed due to the high tide during full moon followed by solar eclipse on August 1. In order to understand the phenomenon, Chilika Development Authority requisitioned the services of ocean engineers and scientists to study its impact on the lagoon ecosystem and on the adjoining villages.

The experts have indicated that the newly opened mouth at Gabakunda will close naturally in due course--may be two to three years, depending on variable site condition and magnitude of river discharge. With time, the lagoon mouth is expected to shift northward, affecting the tidal levels and salinity of the lagoon. However, there is no threat to the adjoining villages of the new mouth region at present.

It is not necessary to undertake any shore protection work in the villages opposite the Gabakunda mouth as large islands and shallow outer channels protect them. Except for a two-kilometre stretch there will not be any significant change on the hydrodynamics of the outer channel. The new opening has in fact reduced salinity of the water in the outer channel. This has led to more fish migrating to the area.

chittaranjan mishra
Additional Chief Executive,
Chilika Development Authority


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