Published: Tuesday 30 June 2009

For a better chulha

I have cooked food on a chulha which was a difficult experience and I would not like to go through it again ('The challenge of the chulha', May 1-15, 2009). I was lucky because I was able to escape it. But what about the other Indian women living in villages?


Down to Earth The editorial showcases the mismatch between the intent and execution of ambitious policies of the states that have no idea how the other half lives. They fail to deliver beyond the state warehouses. The state governments have to get rooted and understand the realities before formulating a policy.


Down to Earth My organization learnt about the low smoke chulha at a workshop sometime ago. We brought one to our main centre in Muthoor village, Anekal taluk, near Bengaluru, to see if the design fits the cooking habits of villagers. The chulha will later be launched on a wider scale in Karnataka and other states.

The stove has two mud stands. The bypass channel within the stove increases the distribution of heat in the mud stand immediately above the fire resulting in faster cooking and reduction in the amount of fuel required.

A pile of perforated clay tablets, at the bottom of the chimney pipe attached to the chulha, filters about 50 per cent of the soot from smoke. This safeguards the health of women and infants who most of the time inhale its smoke in rural homes.

Village women have been asked to experiment with the design and materials used. Their involvement ensures they understand its utility, feel involved and also earn a few rupees. The chulha will be launched on Independence Day and will be marketed by the self-help groups and the local youth club.

Erin Foundation, Bengaluru

Down to Earth A decade ago I met Madhav Gadgil, professor at the Centre for Appropriate Science and Technology for Rural Areas, Bengaluru. He and his colleagues insisted their mud stoves were designed to adapt to local menus and pots. Indeed they had designed different stoves for different parts of Karnataka. They did not build and distribute the stoves; they trained the stovemakers instead. I was told the stoves were 20-30 per cent more efficient than open fires and the fuel did not come from forests. They used agricultural waste.


Who needs Bt brinjal?

The brinjal fact file in the cover story 'Test tube brinjal' (April 1-15, 2009) says India's average production is 16.3 tonnes per hectare (ha). This does not justify growing Bt brinjal as, according to Tamil Nadu's horticulture department, farmers are already getting a yield of 25 to 30 tonnes per ha in 150-160 days. Modern agronomical practices can push the yield to 467 per cent higher. Under these circumstances, there is a need to improve extension services and reach the latest technical knowhow to farmers so that the yield goes up. Through scientific farm management that uses modern technology, it is possible to harvest crops 11 months a year instead of six.

Bt crops need to be tested against high yielding varieties under various climatic conditions with a standard package of practices to see if they really give high yield, quality and lower the cost of production. The question of acceptability by farmers is another issue that needs to be looked into.

Director, Plantation Crops Agricultural Agency, Chennai

Let science rest

Today's scientists lack the basic understanding that living a simple life is the best way to save the environment. The more we invent more the problems we create for humanity. Take any technology and study its adverse effects; you will find how destructive it has become for users and non-users of that invention.


History repeats

The Maharashtra government has done it again. In 1994, it downsized the core area of its famous Melghat Tiger Reserve to allow cattle grazing to please local residents. Now it wants to downsize the Maldhok sanctuary, home to the endangered Great Indian Bustard in Solapur distirict, to 4 per cent of its range to please local residents who want to use the sanctuary area for developmental activities ('Downsizing bird habitat', April 1-15, 2009). All eyes are now on the Supreme Court that has to decide if the sanctuary area can be reduced from 849,700 ha to 34,000 ha.


Healing touch for Jharia

Failure to take timely action has perhaps escalated the problem in Jharkhand's Jharia coalfields ('On shaky ground', March 16-31, 2009). People refusing to move out, fearing loss of livelihood, need to be reassured and adequately compensated. Will to implement the rehabilitation plan is essential. The government should also focus on research and development to contain and douse the fire in the coalfields.


Green manifestoes

In India we have criminal parties who cannot think green ('Elections 2009: Where is the green party?', April 16-30, 2009). We need to change our attitude and think before choosing these people as our representatives. People should demand that green vision be included in the manifestoes of all parties.


Ecological plunder

We see grave ecological crimes being committed every day. What the Tatas are doing at Dhamra is part of the nationwide pillage of natural wealth. The situation on the ground level is grave. Carcasses of Olive Ridleys whose flippers get cut by trawler nets, can be seen strewn on the coast as trawlers do not use turtle excluder devices ('Right of way', May 1-15, 2009). The Orissa government is bothered neither about the Olive Ridleys nor about the fishers who are left with no means of income by the commercial trawlers. The government projects itself as the champion of the poor but has, in fact, marginalized them.

In Ganjam and Bhadrak districts, fishers have no recourse to justice. The amended Coastal Management Zone Act, 2007 could well be the death knell for lakhs of them across the state as also marine wealth of the state. The media is doing nothing to highlight these issues.


What recession?

There may be hype over recession but things have not become any cheaper. Petroleum prices have fallen below normal levels. Steel and cement prices have gone down. But cars and real estate have become dearer. Even the cost of food, clothes and computers have shot up. Business houses are raking in profits as they have hiked the cost of their products. Yet they are using recession as an excuse to cut salaries or terminate employees. Indian business houses have chosen quick money over long-term gains. What a shame!


Inconcrete facts

The article 'Concrete earth' (March 16-31, 2009) quotes a Central Ground Water Board report to show that water levels in the state are declining due to scanty rainfall and large-scale concrete cover over land. This is not true.

It is true that fall of water level is recorded in 73 per cent of the observation wells in November 2008 as compared to November 2007, but the average drop was not 4.5 metres (m) as reported. Our report, Ground Water Monitoring Report of November 2008, mentions 63 per cent of the observation wells showed fall of water level in the range of 0-2 m as compared to November 2007. Fall of water level by more than 4 m as compared to November 2007 was observed in 3 per cent of the wells.

I never stated that the water level had fallen below 25 m in eight blocks in Durg district and two blocks in Bilaspur district. Representative wells in these semi critical blocks (from groundwater abstraction point of view) do show falling trends, but it is not appropriate to make a generalized statement like the water level has fallen below 25 m. Our report also did not highlight concretization as a factor responsible for declining water levels in the state.

Regional Director,
cgwb , North
Central Chhattisgarh Region, Raipur


Our correspondent replies

In my conversation with Ashis Chakraborty I pointed out that in some places a 25 m drop had occurred. Chakraborty had said: "Yes, these areas are going to face the worst problem, but that is not the case with the whole state."

It is true the technical details in the article were not clarified with subsequent questions on our part. We regret the errors.


In the cover story 'Mercury rises early' (May 16-31, 2009), the 'decade' column in the table 'Spread and duration' on p30 states 1999-2000. This should read 1991-2000.

In the second column, it states 9.9 subdivisions affected per year between 1981 and 1990, and 7.3 subdivisions affected per year between 1971 and 1980. This should read 7.3 subdivisions affected per year between 1981 and 1990 and 9.9 subdivisions affected per year between 1971 and 1980.

We regret the errors.

Hyderabad's unsafe water

Water-borne diseases like gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea and jaundice, caused by contaminated water supply, have claimed many lives in Bholakpur in Musheerabad, Hyderabad. This year too people have died and many were hospitalized. Residents are mourning the loss of their children and relatives.

People have been regularly complaining of foul smelling water but complaints to the Hyderabad metropolitan water supply and sewerage board have gone unheeded. Residents say the water supply pipes and sewerage pipes run parallel and close to each other. As the pipes are old and corroded, the sewage leaks into the drinking water, leading to contamination.

The water board officials have a different story to tell. According to them, there are over a hundred unauthorized tanneries that bury animal skin in the soil. The chemicals from these skins corrode the water pipes and contaminate the water. However, the director of the South India Prime Tannery Pvt Ltd has rubbished this and claimed that all tanneries in Bholakpur were shut down almost five years ago.


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