Hearty congratulations to you and your editorial team for the wonderful job you are doing. Recently, I read the February 15, 1993, issue of the magazine and could not put it down. The article, Paying nature's bills, and the report on the round-table was gripping. The idea of paying heavily for water, which is becoming increasingly scarce, is attractive in the Indian context. This could make people aware of the need to conserve our natural resources.
However, I do not understand your idea of phasing out flush toilets for something more eco-friendly. Agreed flush toilets waste a lot of water, but what are the alternatives? Smaller flush tanks? At the least, the supply in taps could be regulated by special designs. I recall my experiences, trying to work out different approaches to save water in Anushaktinagar. At one point, chief hydraulic engineer Mulekar had suggested that the department of atomic energy authorities think of recycling its water, especially from kitchens and bathrooms. The idea was dropped because of economic considerations and also because a random survey revealed the idea was not palatable to residents.
I feel the real solution to many of our problems will emerge only when we are more conscious of them, for which the process must start at the school level.
I have penned these thoughts as I feel very strongly about them. I wish you all the best in your future efforts.
The commons controversy
Anumita Roychowdhury's article on wastelands development (June 30, 1993) refers to a ministry of rural development (MRD) plan to allow industries to take over non-forest wastelands, which will further deprive the rural poor of fuel and fuelwood. V B Eswaran, former director of the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development is quoted as saying, "If this happens, the rural poor will lose their survival base. Non-forest wastelands were transferred to the MRD last year to meet the forest-based needs of the rural people and to take up need-based rural development programmes."
In this context, it would be worth investigating who actually uses the village commons. It is usually the village elite, not the poor who tend their cattle and crops. The MRD has said that non-forest wastelands development requires greater resources than the government can afford. But Eswaran says, "Community systems of management can offer much cheaper methods of reclamation. The resource crunch is only an excuse to offer land to industry on a silver platter."
Does he have a project to demonstrate this? Or to use an American expression, will he put his money where his mouth is? He should work out a specific project to demonstrate the viability of his proposal. At the same time, it does not mean that all other methods be kept in cold storage until he succeeds.
To afforest the vast denuded lands in India is a national task, where the forest departments, environmental agencies and the business sector have to work in tandem. Eswaran and others like him should back their convictions by undertaking appropriate projects.
We are a non-governmental, voluntary organisation dedicated to protect the environment and wildlife. As part of our anti-poaching activities, we have recently caught a person trying to sell snake skins in violation of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The skins were seized amidst a large gathering, which included officials from the Gouripur beat office. The person was sheltered by a community that believes snakes will totally destroy them. To counter this belief, we conducted a public awareness campaign urging the villagers not to heed such superstitions and informing them that snakes maintain the ecological balance by controlling insects, pests and rats. The campaign ultimately led to the arrest of the person and seizure of the snake skins.
In the course of the campaign, we came to know that some politicians also involve themselves in such activities. And, we were surprised to find, the police are totally unaware of these activities. We have decided to submit a memorandum to the governor of Assam to this effect.
The monsoon floods of July 20-22, 1993, have devastated extensive areas of the Alipurduar and Buxa Tiger Reserve. Of the 30 villages in the reserve, 26 have been badly affected. At least six lakh people have suffered from this unprecedented havoc.
We at the Alipurduar Nature Club have decided to assist the flood victims by providing safe drinking water, building houses and repairing roads. We appeal to your readers to extend their cooperation either in terms of goods and articles or drafts made out in the name of the club.
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