Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Mining in Sariska

In the piece on the Sariska Tiger Reserve (November 15, 1993), field director Sunayan Sharma says combining tiger protection and the traditional lifestyle of the villagers has been unsuccessful and therefore, the villagers must move! As Sharma knows, mining in the reserve has destroyed a great extent of the forest and the villagers are not to be blamed for going to other areas for their sustainable needs.

The rehabilitation of villagers under various schemes has been a dismal failure.The debris of the mining extends in all directions and has killed many grasses, shrubs and trees in the area. Since mining in the reserve has been banned by a Supreme Court order, it would be worthwhile to use the villagers within the reserve to regenerate the area. ...

Who should lead?

The feature, Scientific Institutions -- A question of leadership (October 15, 1993), made very interesting reading. It is unfortunate that in our country we tend to make a controversy of every issue. The issue here is leadership of a technical organisation. In these days of specialisation, it is unwise to demand that only a technical person should head a technical organisation.

We need persons to deliver the goods. The best medical specialist may not make the best hospital superintendent and the most learned of professors may not make the best vice-chancellor of a university.

One does not understand why people aspire for top administrative posts instead of striving to be at the top in their field. Scientific and technical persons should shed the notion that they will be at the top only if they become administrative heads. ...

Organic tradition

The article, Realising the virtues of organic farming (November 30, 1993), creates the impression that the use of organic manure is something not known to our farmers so far. On the contrary, the practice of composting all wastes from farms, animal sheds and homestead, known as farm yard manure (FYM), has long been a tradition in India. The use of chemical fertilisers started with the Green Revolution when Mexican wheat, the Japanese method of paddy cultivation and high-yielding varieties were introduced.

In spite of the increasing popularity of chemical fertilisers, FYM is still used by farmers because they are well aware that it replenishes the much-needed humus in the soil, which erodes however well the land is cultivated. Use of FYM has gone down rapidly in recent years due to the increasing scarcity of arable land. Also, oilcakes of castor and neem were used in a limited way to repel pests, but the practice has been discontinued due to high costs.

In remote areas of the Himalaya, knowledge about chemical fertilisers is still very limited, as a result of which farmers are content with their traditional dependence on FYM. So much so that the Planning Commission is now worried about the low consumption of fertilisers in the hills. However, a study by the Agroeconomic Research Centre at Shimla has suggested changes in the packaging of fertilisers -- so that farmers can carry the bag on their backs -- to encourage its use in the hills. ...

Konark beach resort

The special report on the proposed beach resort near Konark (September 30, 1993) describes me as director, tourism, which is incorrect. I happen to be director, environment. Your correspondent Kanti Kumar has met me on various occasions to discuss environmental issues and I am sure the mistake is inadvertent.

Curiously, some of my senior colleagues in the Union ministry of environment and forests feel that while discussing the project, I "behave more like tourism director rather than environment director". Such remarks represent a mind-set in which directors of tourism and environment must assume adversarial positions. The twain can surely meet.

I take this opportunity to clarify a few points. The report creates the impression that the entire casuarina belt along the 8-km long coastline will be felled, "further exposing the denuded coastline to erosion". In reality, the plantation on a 200-metre belt from the high-tide line will not be touched at all. Only some meandering, narrow walkways through the beach will be provided. Any apprehension about the shifting of sand dunes is unwarranted.

Similarly, the "total clearance" of 520,000 trees over 8 km is incorrect. Only one-third of this area will be built up and less than 190,000 trees will be felled. To compensate this, a statutory afforestation scheme will cover a plantation area of more than 900 ha.
Director, Environment Department of forests and environment Govt of Orissa

News editor Anupam Goswami replies:

The report talked about the "total clearance" of the sanctuary, "further exposing the denuded coastline to erosion" in reference to the arguments of those opposing the beach resort project. At the same time, it quoted the state tourism minister as saying that only 33 per cent of the allotted area will be built up and Mr Agnihotri saying that hoteliers would preserve as much of the casuarina plantation as possible. Nowhere has our correspondent on his own mentioned felling of the entire casuarina belt.

The error in Mr Agnihotri's designation is regretted. It is indeed unintentional. ...

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