Published: Friday 10 July 2015

Life endangered under water

Development in India has largely been at the cost of the environment. One such glaring instance is water pollution and the increased incidents of poaching on aquatic life. Concern for these damages have been late in coming. The World Wide Fund for Nature's Mission for the 1990s has come not a day too soon. The sections dealing with aquatic life in this programme envisage the conservation of different stocks of fish and their habitats, and their sustainable use to meet food and employment requirements.

Some of the major causes for the present deplorable state of affairs are indiscriminate exploitation of marine resources, deforestation in the catchment areas of rivers and lakes, construction of roads and dams that lead to silting and habitat change, and commercial fishing. Public awareness and sincere efforts and financial assistance from the state, non-governmental, technical and financial sectors can help to bring the situation under control.

The government should also draw up an effective policy on aquatic flora and fauna. A joint committee of concerned ministries and departments could also be set up to coordinate and review the programme. At present, the agriculture ministry has issued orders to devise methods to protect endangered fish species. But the ministry of environment and forests has yet to formulate its strategies.

The ministry of civil aviation and tourism is planning to promote fishing to attract foreign tourists. Similarly, the ministry of commerce is trying to boost fish exports. The ministry of water resources, the Public Works Department and the irrigation department are still on a development-and-construction spree without paying any heed to fish conservation. A drastic review of the Fisheries Act of 1897 is also long overdue.

VIJAY SONI,New Delhi 110 003 ...

Go organic

With reference to Organic uplift (August 31, 1994), the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation should be congratulated for introducing techniques of traditional organic farming in 13 villages.

The metros and other cities often face a problem in sorting the garbage for landfills. Delhi alone has to tackle more than 5,000 tonnes a day, and Bombay 4,000 tonnes. About 30 per cent of the garbage consists of organic matter convertible into fuel pellets or manure. But the conversion processes have made no significant headway, for want of political will and a clear-cut government policy. Organic manure also acts as a chemical-free catalyst for growing vegetables, which are a major source of foreign exchange. Most importing countries implement pesticide residue regulations; therefore, to market vegetables and flowers, it is necessary to grow them organically.

LAXMI NARAIN MODI, Nation Building Forum, New Delhi 110 019...

Save these trees

Some stretches of the Bangalore-Udagamandalam road are a sheer joy to drive along. There are magnificent old trees on both sides of the road -- imposing banyan trees, peepals and other evergreens. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years, I have seen trees being hacked down, leaving bare stretches along the road, the worst of which is between Gundalpet and Mysore.

Merely apprehending the offenders will not help. If people need firewood, it is necessary to grow more trees to meet their requirements. The women from Gundalpet also sell wooden spoons and ladles to tourists at a mere Re 1 a piece. But, at all costs, trees should not be chopped down indiscriminately.

MARI MARCEL THEKAEKARA, Gudalur 643 212, Tamil Nadu ...

Crisis in Calcutta

Calcutta has earned the dubious distinction of being the 2nd most polluted city in the world. One of the main reasons for this has been the reckless destruction of the Calcutta wetlands since Independence. Till the '60s, one could plead ignorance of the immensely beneficial ecological impact of the wetlands on the metropolis. The Salt Lake area was built destroying more than 1,215 ha, out of 8,100 ha, of the eastern Salt Lake, ruining an entire ecosystem and the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolk.

Since the early '70s, global ecological awareness has grown. The state's Basic Development Plan in 1966 strongly recommended the shifting of the focus of further growth of the metropolis from the old city and its eastern and southern suburbs to the northern part of the Calcutta metropolitan district. But the state government has been systematically degrading eastern and southern Salt Lake by distributing 664.20 ha of southern Salt Lake -- requisitioned earlier by the state government for the development of fisheries -- for paddy cultivation; earmarking nearly 40.5 ha of Salt Lake to relocate the Tangra-Tiljala tannery complex; and destroying the Chinta Sing Bheri, adjacent to Salt Lake City, by allocating 75.75 ha for constructing a World Trade Centre.

C R DUTTA, Coordinating Body of 36 Organisations, Calcutta 700 013 ...

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