Published: Thursday 30 April 2009

Bengal celebrates rhino boom

Amidst the gloom of declining tigers and other wildlife across the country, there is one heartening piece of news. The latest count of one-horned rhinoceros at Jaldapara sanctuary in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district has shown a marked increase. In 1986, there were only 14 animals of this endangered species; today there are 122. In the last enumeration in 2006, there were 108 one-horned rhinos in Jaldapara.

Forest officials said this happened because they shared their concerns regarding conservation of rhinos with tribals and tea garden workers living in the area. The head count was done, said officials, by dividing the entire 216.51 sq km area of the forest into 36 blocks. Forty-five trained pachyderms with 120 forest staff and six non-profits were deployed and the global positioning system was used for the first time to count the animals.

The rhinos were led into open fields so that there were no errors in counting.

Though the rise in the rhino population has cheered forest staff, the area is prone to food shortage. Last November one rhino was found dead in the sanctuary. The forest officials suspect the herd killed the animal in a fight over food. Forest officials of both neighbouring Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts are now trying to expand the rhino habitat zone by about 30 sq km along the eastern bank of Torsha river. Until now the river's western bank was considered ideal, but it is proving inadequate with the rise in the population of one-horned rhinoceros.

Environmental Sciences Lecturer, Chanchal College, Malda,West Bengal

Back to the future

Big-and-global has proved to be both unreliable and resource draining ('Our smaller future', March 1-15, 2009). The enlightened few among the elite are moving from vulgar consumerism towards green living because they can afford it--green homes, green air conditioners, green refrigerators, green clothing. Green luxury!

We need to start thinking small and local as environment guru E F Schumacher had suggested early last century: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of courage--to move in the opposite direction."

This will pave the way for food security and security against the impact of climate change.


Down to Earth In the last couple of weeks, a realization has hit me: when I don't go into stores, I want little. This goes for wanting to buy things for my son and relatives' children. Our lives are full; we all have what we need and even more. But as a birthday or an anniversary approaches, I venture into stores and wonder: oh, she would like this; that isn't so pretty; this would look great on the table.

It seems these are the effects of television commercials. Even when kids watch television, they want everything. Get me into the mall and my head starts spinning; suddenly all the soft fabrics, shiny boxes and bright things grab my attention. It becomes an internal struggle not to buy.

I know I am not the only one who feels so. Hence, my suggestion is, stay out of stores. It is hard to stick to such a pledge if you browse the offers in fashion magazines, meander through shopping malls or find everybody around you dressed for the Oscars night. Stay at home. If you still feel the urge to shop, hit the cinemas or plan the weekend out for some nature trailing or sporting activity. Better yet refill your tea mug, sit back and open a book. That's so much better than being mad in the mall.

Roopa Sharma

Down to Earth I completely agree with you that the path for the future economic, social and environmental security lies in decentralization of all the related activities, and taking them to the levels of smallest of villages and communities.

Decentralization to the level of the smallest village was Mahatma Gandhi's mantra; it was also the mantra in older times.

The practice continues in millions of villages in India and developing countries. Such a way of life, where the dependence on outside assistance for day-to-day living was minimum, ensured a safety net against adverse impact of external forces. It also led to efficient utilization of natural resources.

In India, I cannot see any other option but to reverse the mad urbanization that is happening, and to make villages the main centres of society. The urban centres, as we have them today, are unsustainable, ungovernable, demand disproportionate resources from rural India and generate huge quantities of waste.

On the energy front also the sooner we do away with our fascination for large-sized centralized conventional technology energy sources, the better it will be for all and for Earth.


Down to Earth A frequent air traveller trotting the globe is said to leave a deeper carbon footprint in a year than the whole of UK. Fancy food items too are flown across the world to pander to hedonistic consumers. Such food items leave their own carbon footprint.

It is time to shift focus not just to organic farming for food security but also to food traded locally. True, this will reduce international trade c.

Trucker's day off

Why don't truck drivers in India get a weekly day off? I would like to see them get a day of rest like they do in Germany. This is good for the trucker and his family and it is also good for the environment. It also leads to fewer accidents on the road.


Clean Kolkata's air without pain

Implementing the Kolkata high court orders to replace two-stroke autorickshaws with four-stroke ones to curb air pollution will be painful. A large number of people who make a living from these vehicles are going to find the transition difficult to support.

I feel as a stop-gap, autorickshaws should be made lpg -driven till cng comes to Kolkata. Make them gas driven through retrofitting at manufacturers' cost and then eventually go for electricity driven autorickshaws.

Unfortunately, we as a nation like to harp on problems rather than find solutions. Why cannot the iits and universities take up the job of designing electricity driven autos as a top priority?

This will reduce air pollution in cities and the gas import bill. For the solution to be long term, research should focus on solar power driven vehicles.


No need to bathe everyday

Living in a city has its own advantages. I get piped water and so I take a bath everyday, sometimes even two times a day. I don't think of the future or of other less fortunate people. This luxury has far-reaching consequences when both surface and groundwater are becoming scarce.

I remember my childhood days in a village when we used to bathe two times a week. Our bathrooms used to be a hut in open paddy fields near streams or near open wells, away from our dwellings. Heating water in big drums with fuel wood was almost a half-a-day affair. We were great energy savers back then.

Is it necessary for everyone to take a bath or shave everyday? Only those who are active and sweat it out during the day can enjoy the luxury of a daily bath. Others, like me, who are retired can do so every alternate day and save as much as 5,000 litres of water a year.


Ways to save water in trains

Too much water goes waste in trains, especially from washbasins in the coach and in the toilets. I would like to suggest ways to check this wastage.

If the wastewater from washbasins can be collected, filtered and chlorinated, it can be used to flush lavatories and bring down the demand on freshwater.

In the article, 'Indian railway's experimentation with eco-friendly toilets' (March 31, 2008), you have mentioned nearly 14 million passengers board trains every day. Using recycled water to flush lavatories can then help save 5.11 billion litres of freshwater a year.

Cleaning the filter at regular intervals is not a complicated process; wind power can be harnessed to pump the chlorinated water.

Prakash Vaithyanathan

Let nature in

The best way to live a healthy life is to live naturally as far as possible ('Living on love and fresh air', March 16-31, 2009). One should get used to life in all-weather conditions and not use them as excuses for not working: it is raining, it is too hot or it is too cold. Walk as far as possible. Live in the sunshine; let all windows and doors of your houses and offices remain open for natural light and fresh air.

Mahesh Kapasi

Plastic, and more plastic

I would like to bring to your attention the colossal waste of polythene bags at all Big Bazar outlets. Every time I go there, I am aghast at the wastage. Even if it is a handful of coriander leaves, they seal it in thick polythene and put it in another polythene bag with their brand name on it. The way they seal the polythene, even if it meets the thickness specifications, makes it unfit for reuse.

madhumita gupta

Is technology science?

How is technology related to science?

Science is most widely considered a process for understanding and creating knowledge about nature that may or may not address a practical need, whereas technology is often described as a process of creating artefacts and systems to meet a need. But like science, technology typically relies on empirical tests, for example experiments, to gain evidence for claims about its products.

Many consider technology to be the practical application of science. In this sense, technology and science are wrapped together into a single conceptual package known as science or science and technology, the latter being a dependent entity.

Others consider a different relationship between science and technology in which science and technology are two ends of a continuum. On one end is pure science with no readily apparent application and on the other is pure technology that can be directly used to address a need or solve a problem. Along the continuum there is a broad overlap that could be referred to as applied science. Some consider that science and technology are not necessarily related.

Joseph Makkolil
Department of Applied Chemistry,
Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi



Ecology is a subject that is dear to all Parsis. Our holy prophet Zarathustra forbade any activity that endangers the purity of the natural elements--fire, water, earth and air. The Zoroastrian community, therefore, neither buries nor cremates their dead. In what are called Towers of Silence, the dead bodies are left for vultures to feed on. In Mumbai, the Tower of Silence is located at Doongerwadi atop Malabar Hill.

Elections were held for trustees who are supposed to manage our community affairs. Khorjeste Mistree, a well-respected scholar of Zoroastrian studies, contested these elections and won. Over the years Mistree has propagated our beliefs, customs and rituals and strictly warned our people about the need to preserve the sanctity of the natural elements. He is totally opposed to cremation and burial on ecological grounds.

But now, after being elected community leader, he is suggesting measures that have upset many.

On winning the elections, this scholar turned maverick went on a shameless agenda of getting trees at Doongerwadi chopped in large numbers. The area around the tower is ecologically rich where peacocks can be spotted, but Mistree wants to clear the area for more car-parking space, saying the relatives of the dead should be given room for their cars. This action of his damages the ecology senselessly and increases pollution.

He says he won the elections and got our community's mandate. He certainly does not have our mandate to massacre trees. There are taxis to carry mourners to the hill-top without any objection. There is no need to increase noxious fumes from car-exhausts on such a beautiful hill by creating more parking spaces.

He should probably read the article 'Come without your car' (January 1-15, 2009) on Fazilka on the India-Pakistan border which has been declared a car-free zone.

Godrej Baug, Mumbai

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