Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

The joke's on us

THE proposal to import about 6 million tons of wet dung from Wassenar in Holland to Gujarat (Droppings for India, April 15) at an estimated cost of $420 million -- to be dried and processed into organic fertiliser -- is a ludicrous fallout of the "liberalisation" wave. Adding insult to injury, an eco-friendly term like "enviro-dung" is being used to cover up trade in toxic wastes.

Western methods of "factory-farming" livestock involve routinely pumping antibiotics into the animals and drenching them with various chemicals to maximise meat and milk production. Micro-organisms surviving in the dung of these animals become resistant to most chemicals. It is these hardened varieties that we are freely importing into the country.

The sheer size of the deal also raises prospective problems, such as the contamination of groundwater aquifers and the production of ozone-depleting gases. Adequate phytosanitary inspection and the certification of such huge quantities of dung are a practical impossibility. As usual, matters like these are never brought to public scrutiny.

The proposal comes at a time when the West is rediscovering the benefits of organic farming. This clearly reveals the nature of the "enviro-dung" being offered to us so graciously. Simply put, it is too toxic to be used in Holland itself, or in any neighbouring country. Our craze for anything "foreign" has reached ridiculous heights.

There is enough organic matter in this country. With a sizeable cattle population, dung should be adequately available. Besides, our cities produce a few lakh tons of organic wastes, easily convertible into manure, using earthworms and soil bacteria. It would improve solid waste management, creating valuable soil nutrients and a healthier environment in the bargain. Alternatively, the bio-gas route could be used for local energy production. Even as sheer economics, this makes much greater sense. Let us, therefore, ward off this assault on our commonsense.


Cart-wheels in the air

APROPOS your feature To the defence of the defenceless (April 31), CARTMAN claims to have modified the traditional bullock cart by using alumunium instead of wood for the body, thus reducing its weight. To do away with wobbling wheels, ball bearings are used and brakes installed. Apparently, this technology has been adopted for 90 per cent of bullock carts in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

To the best of our knowledge, not even 0.1 per cent of bullock carts possess aluminium bodies. Those who opted for ball bearings and pneumatic tyres are facing severe air leak problems.

On the other hand, the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal, has developed a puncture-proof wheel using the old tyres of trucks and buses and filling the empty space with coir fibre. But no one talks about such innovations, which can transform the economy and be of comfort to 25 million cartowners.


Forests for fraternity

FROM the Paleolithic age onwards, some forests have been reverentially preserved as the sacred domain of the gods. "In them no axe may be laid, no branch broken, no firewood gathered, no grass burnt and animals and birds which take refuge in such forests may not be killed by anyone."

In Greece, there were separate enclosures called temenos (sacred enclosure). The Latin word for such demarcated sacred groves was templum, which is in fact the etymological root of "temple". The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote about such templums in the first century AD.

India, too, abounds in such examples. A small forest area at Shivbadi in Punjab is protected as sacred. Until recently, the forests near Attarsumba in the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat were very well protected as the sacred grove of Shaneshwar Mahadev. Such groves are not uncommon and are as ancient as our civilisation.

However, with the weakening of the religious structure, these practices are on the vane. Instead of creating new temples and mosques, and bickering over monuments to Ram or Rahim, can we not create Ram-Rahim van (Ram-Rahim forests) in all the villages of India? Whosoever wishes to donate towards construction of a temple should instead do so for sacred forests. I am sure that all religions will philanthropically espouse this noble cause. And may the citizens of Ayodhya lead the way to such sarva dharma chintan van (forests of religious fraternity).


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