Published: Sunday 31 May 2009

If not now, when?

Karnataka pollution control board chairperson H C Sharat Chandra's comment in the article 'Too hot to handle' (February 16-28, 2009) is strange. Chandra said, "The state pollution control boards (pcb) and the Central Pollution Control Board do not have the manpower to provide leadership to industries."

pcbs were constituted under the Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974. But after 34 years, if our officials say they "do not have the manpower", it only shows they are inefficient. No government has ever stopped them from enhancing their capacities. In the same interview Chandra said, the state pcb conducted "a three-year study along with agricultural universities and industry associations on managing effluents from distilleries". The study was unnecessary.

In 1998, the ministry of environment and forests and the Central Pollution Control Board prepared the protocol for utilization of treated distillery effluents for irrigation, also called ferti-irrigation. This was circulated among all state pcbs for implementation. But many failed to monitor effluent treatment, which led to problems like groundwater pollution.

Chella Krishnamurthy, a Karnataka farmer, died in a dispute with a distillery which was releasing untreated effluents into the Pinakini river and irrigation tanks near his land ('Chella Krishnamurthy, 57, murdered', January 16-31, 2009). He was trying to highlight the manipulation by distilleries in the name of ferti-irrigation. pcb officials did not come to his aid. Even after his death, they did not help his family get justice.


Pedestrians edged out

The largest number of people who commute in an urban centre are pedestrians ('On two legs and a prayer', April 16-30, 2009). Yet urban development plans completely neglect them.

The city streets are being widened at the cost of pavements. The pedestrians have to cross innumerable hurdles on the pavements: they are poorly maintained, vendors clog them, there are hoardings and roadside shops use them for their activities. Even two-wheeler drivers use the pavements.

It is high time the government looked into the woes of pedestrians. They certainly deserve a better deal.

Pedestrians do not use precious fuel, do not pollute the environment and only ask the government to provide them with unobstructed walking space on the pavements. The government should enforce stringent rules allowing safe passage to pedestrians. Violators should be fined heavily.


Down to Earth Crossing the road on Delhi's brt corridor is a nightmare. Apart from that, finding two-wheelers and autorickshaws on pavements is a usual sight. There is an urgent need to enforce measures to calm the traffic.

Transport and traffic authorities need a wing working full time on calming the traffic and encouraging the commuters to shift from motorized modes of transport to non-motorized public transit systems.

M Sampathkumar

Down to Earth Authorized parking in some places in Delhi is in the middle of the road or on pavements. Also, people migrating from neighbouring states occupy available public spaces including pavements. Jhuggis are erected on pavements, so are shops. So where is the space for pedestrians to walk?


Ways to avoid kosi-like floods

The Kosi river has a vast hinterland in Nepal and beyond. Several rivulets and 11 to 12 rivers run down from this state between latitude 86-88 East and 26 North. They all join the Ganga.

Have the authorities made provision to keep this natural drainage working or have they blocked it? If they have blocked it, the rainwater will certainly cause floods. There are over 6,000 rivers and rivulets pouring into India during monsoon, causing floods.

India, in a joint venture with Nepal, can establish dams inside Nepal to generate hydroelectricity as this can regulate and reduce flood damage and provide water for irrigation in dry weather.

The Asian Development Outlook 1996-97 report by Asian Development Bank estimates hydroelectric power resources of about 25,000 MW that could be exploited and even exported to India.


A step forward

The Jammu and Kashmir high court's order to shut down houseboats operating without sewage treatment facilities on the Dal Lake is welcome ('Polluted to the brim', April 1-15, 2009). It is heartening to see a state pollution control board (pcb) taking action.

The Railways could take cue from the Kashmir pcb and do something to stop polluting rivers. Waste management on running trains is practically non-existent. Human waste is emptied on the tracks and ultimately ends up in the waterbodies.

The truth is the Indian Railways do not have a waste management policy, a fact that is reflected in the lack of waste bins in the sleeper class compartments and open burning of waste on either end of the railway station platforms. Though cases have been filed in the past against this, nothing has changed.


Taxpayers sponsor nano

The editorial 'The right right' (April 1-15, 2009) makes a strong case for promoting public transport. The Nano's cost is low only because the Gujarat government has doled out largesse. Every automobile in the past has got this benefit. We can afford a car only because the government subsidizes it. As a result buses pay higher taxes than cars.

As for the Nano, the Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 subsidy benefit every buyer gets on the Rs 1 lakh car comes from taxpayers. It is a win-win situation for the Tatas and the government while the poor taxpayers will not even realize they have subsidized the car that will zip past them a few months from now.


Down to Earth There should be a new policy under which buses are not taxed at all. Instead cars should be heavily taxed at all stages right from the time of sale to parking. This will curb the use of personal vehicles, which will become expensive to buy as well as maintain.

The government should also give incentives to people who rent out cars for personal use. Government organizations and private companies should hire taxis that are made available to workers at reasonable rates. This will increase availability of road space while optimizing the use of cars.


Down to Earth Every country wants to develop. But development does not start with cars. First the government should provide basic facilities like public transport, roads and drinking water. Have the Tatas ever come up with a good bus policy? No. They just want to make money. All businesses are self-serving and our government machinery is also like a corporate house.


Down to Earth I agree the right right is food security, quality education, good health and jobs, and certainly not Nano. But it is also true that our car export has increased 57 per cent. Maruti is also going to launch hybrid cars in the next three to five years. India should not be faulted if it aspires to become a hub for automobile production.


Down to Earth A personal vehicle seems to be the only viable though costly option for commuting to the workplace when people have stringent work schedules and cannot afford to spend time waiting for buses, trains or finding autorickshaws.


Down to Earth In our country nothing is right. Everything is in the hands of powerful people like the Tatas, Birlas or the government. They make decisions on the basis of what suits them. The Nano is nothing more than a burden on us in terms of health, time and tax money.


Natures' bounties

The cover story 'Fat of the matter' (February 1-15, 2009) should have highlighted more key differences between traditional and commercial oil extraction. While mechanical crushing is used in traditional extraction, commercial extraction uses chemical solvents.

Coconut, groundnut and sesame oil in southern India and mustard oil in northern states of the country have been in use for hundreds of years. They are time-tested unlike commercial oils. Besides, these traditional oils are safe and inexpensive as they do not have to travel miles to reach the consumer. But the rich like to ape the west by using olive oil which is expensive and has to be imported.

Nature does not allow anyone to hoard anything, thus the shelf life of traditional oils is short. Long shelf life implies nature does not find it worthy, be it polished rice, pesticide-ridden foods or Dalda. People seem to have forgotten the contamination of mustard oil by the multinationals in Delhi.


Humans v Birds

The article 'Downsizing bird habitat' (April 1-15, 2009) is yet another instance of dwindling bird and animal habitat. With growing pressure on land due to increase in human population, these conflicts are unavoidable. The current definition of development gives forested areas the tag of undeveloped land which many take as an oppurtunity to carry out agricultural or industrial activities.


Subsidies for whom?

Doling out money to farmers' families is the most ineffective, corruption-prone and costly way of providing relief ('At farm's hand', March 16-31, 2009).

In the recent elections, political parties tried to outdo one another promising staple food grains at prices lower than the cost of production. This involves massive subsidies to non-farming consumers. Subsidies should not target only land-owning farmers, but also the landless farm labourers.


Public park is medical waste dump

Stinking medical waste carelessly dumped in Chandan park in ward number 25 of Malda town poses a serious health hazard for the residents.

The English Bazaar Municipality is responsible for collecting all medical waste from nursing homes and pathological units in the town. It has been dumping the waste in an open vat meant for the park's general garbage. The municipality says it does not have a medical waste autoclave sterilizer. Vice-chairperson Dulal Sarkar said the municipality had been trying to construct a solid waste management plant including an autoclave sterilization system, but is facing difficulties in acquiring land.

Since 1955, representatives of several political parties came to power in English Bazaar but none took the initiative to solve this problem.

A few months ago the district administration held a meeting with the civic body to decide how to dispose medical waste safely. Plans were made to adopt the pollution control board's norms. However, the decisions have not been put into effect till now.

Residents who are unable to cope with living next to hazardous waste are shifting elsewhere.

Environmental Sciences Lecturer,
Chanchal College, Malda
West Bengal


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