Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Right to clean water

The article on the Damodar's industrial burden (January 31, 1993) by Uday Shankar has dealt extremely well with the subject. It points out that industrial establishments along the river are mainly responsible for pollution of the Damodar waters because they have failed to set up plants to treat their effluents before discharging them into the river. The industrial establishments have also failed to make alternate arrangements for domestic water consumption for the people living near the Damodar river basin.

Despite the policy of the Indian government and the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, neither the Central nor the state governments have taken any measures to prevent or regulate pollution of the Damodar waters. The industrial establishments discharge, among other things, poisonous acids that not only cause health problems among the people living along the river, but also lead to severe environmental problems that affect the flora and fauna in the region.

Various social organisations and researchers have made serious attempts to study the nature and severity of pollution in the Damodar waters and its effects on the people compelled to drink such contaminated water. The state government has earmarked Rs 40 crore for pollution measures.

The Free Legal Aid Committee intends to take up the issue at various levels and seek legal redressal in the larger public interest. We feel that injustice is being meted out to the people and it is their fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution to have their lives protected by the supreme law of the country.

We are sending copies of this letter to the chief secretary of the Indian government as well as the Union ministry of environment and forests.


Potato pioneer

The article on potatoes (June 30, 1993) mentions a British official named Sulavan, who introduced potatoes in the Nilgiri hills. The correct name is John Sullivan, who was the collector of Coimbatore and to whom the district and its headquarters, Udhagamandalam, owe their existence. His contributions to the district are too numerous to list.


Slightly undependable

Anjani Khanna's article on the monsoon (August 15, 1993) made for interesting reading as she has presented a lot of new material regarding the behaviour of the monsoon by interviewing several experts. It was clear from the article that the monsoons are part of the global circulation system and its behaviour is determined by a host of factors, many of which are yet to be understood fully.

It is, however, regrettable that such a useful article should carry factual errors. Maybe a pre-publication review by an experienced meteorologist would have helped to eliminate these. For instance, the definition of the monsoon ascribed to P K Das neglects to point out that "another" direction is by and large the opposite direction. Also, the directions of the westerlies in the figure on P 30 should be from southwest to northeast.

The El Nino, mentioned on page 33, is not all that inexplicable as the article says. Two conditions are necessary and sufficient to induce El Nino warming: First, weak trade winds in both hemispheres and second, abnormal southerly displacement of the equatorial trough in summer. These prevent the upwelling of cold waters, which, combined with the greatly reduced heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere causes the El Nino. However, it is only fair to say that not all experts agree on this explanation.

These discrepancies apart, Anjani Khanna deserves to be congratulated for writing on a topic which, it is said, is easily understood by school children, but baffles most experts.


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