Published: Wednesday 15 July 2009

Oil laden but certified pure

Coal and crude oil-based Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Power Plant in Ganuli, close to the Sutlej, throws hot water, pollutants and ash into the river and the Ropar wetland located on its banks. This has been damaging the wetland for several years now.

People living near the river in Punjab use its water for drinking. Their protests have failed to yield any result. The Punjab Pollution Control Board's (ppcb) intervention is restricted to testing water samples from different points and announcing after three or four months the power plant's discharge is within permissible limits.

On April 24, a pipeline carrying heavy furnace oil burst and let out heavy oil into the river. The incident speaks the obvious of the plant's maintenance ('7,000 litres of oil in Sutlej', May 16-31, 2009). In no time the oil entered the wetland, home to a wide variety of migratory birds.

The board's response was the same even after this incident. How can it claim the pollutants are within permissible limits? The water is black, has a foul smell and contains particles visible to the naked eye. Are the authorities simply waiting for the river, the surface water and the groundwater to turn poisonous?

Nangal, Punjab

Water under stress

It is not shocking any more to read about decreasing water levels; it is happening everywhere ('Iraq seeks water' and 'Decreasing water levels', May 16-31, 2009). Why go so far when it is happening in our own backyard.

Take Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata or any city, town or village in India. All wetlands and rivers are under tremendous pressure from growing human population. I was therefore surprised there was nothing on population growth in the book list of 'Knowledge for better future' (advertisement on p39, May 16-31, 2009). It is the root cause of all problems. It should be discussed the most.


Credit where it is due

Even though Kerala Samajam Model School and Kerala Public Schools were the first to start working with the Jharkhand Education Project (jep) for educating under-privileged children, this fact seems to have been ignored ('Class act', July 16-31, 2008).

jep entered into a partnership with Kerala Samajam Model School and Kerala Public Schools in 2002 and started paying staff salary from the same year when A K Mallick was the district programme co-ordinator of jep. World Bank and Unicef representatives regularly visited our schools.

Loyola schools were also running an afternoon school but had nothing to do with jep. But when the time came for signing the public-private partnership agreement, it seems jep signed the first agreement with Loyola and hence everyone talks about the concept being started with Loyola.

We started our absolutely free afternoon schools way back in 1991. At present 4,100 of the 7,000 students studying under jep are in our schools. We want our schools to be officially acknowledged as the first to initiate the public-private partnership model.

Director, Kerala Public Schools Trust, Jamshedpur

In nature's lap

I was born and brought up in a small village where trees were our friends. Settled in the city for over 25 years now, I miss them.

A few months ago, I went to Gandhiji's ashram in Sevagram, Maharashtra. I thoroughly enjoyed the greenery there and sat under the bakul tree, planted by Kasturba Gandhi. I was happy to sit there and just be with myself. Salil Chaturvedi's photo feature 'Branch office' (May 16-31, 2009), brings out well this relationship between trees and people. Livelihood does not have to be away from nature, it can be woven around the ecosystem.


The chulha imperative

The improved chulha or cookstove as mentioned in your editorial 'The challenge of the chulha' (May 1-15, 2009) is not user-friendly. The lpg route only pushes users towards unsustainability. Hence it is time to take another look at chulhas as indoor air pollution is among the largest killers in the world.

I have been working in a slum in Howrah for the past 12-13 years where the traditional chulha abounds. So do health problems. Our organization, Howrah Pilot Project, has the grassroots base to anchor, enable and empower an alternative chulha programme.

The problem, however, is that West Bengal, especially Howrah, is not the best place for such projects. There is very little support one can expect from government institutions as they are moribund. An alternative to chulha is imperative.

Howrah Pilot Project, Kolkata

Down to Earth Designing technology for the masses is not easy. It is a challenge. The larger challenge is to design the correct course of implementation.

We have excellent minds and institutions like teri (The Energy and Resources Institute) that are working towards developing very effective and useful products. But they fail in implementation. For example, why is there no follow-up on effective biogas chulhas?


Down to Earth Our organization believes that wood is the best fuel, provided the chulhas are properly designed.

It has the greatest potential of being a renewable resource. But we need more statistics to prove the case. Moreover, the argument about black carbon (soot) from chulhas being non-polluting does not come out clearly.

Adharshila Learning Centre,
Madhya Pradesh

Down to Earth I found the editorial disappointing. It links the effort to reduce emissions from the chulha to the idea of creating space for cars and power stations to continue to pollute.

It gives the strong impression that the poor of India are the victims of these worldwide wishes of the rich people and big companies and states the poor people use renewables.

It is clear, business-as-usual cannot go on. It will lead to further rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Most polluting countries are willing to change, to cut back their emissions. But only when all the countries take similar actions.

Of course, soot is not the same as CO2 and has primarily local effects. But it is, just like other atmospheric pollutants, a global problem that needs attention. It is no use pointing fingers at only a few (rich) countries and companies.

You cannot expect individuals, poor or rich, to change their habits. If you want change, you have to do it top-down (rules, technology push, training and/or image building).

Top-down here is not meant to be a government action; it also encompasses local actions. For instance, by keen individuals.

Apeldoorn, Netherlands

Pedestrian woes

Walk, walk, walk; and there's onlytalk.
But none there is, to walk the talk.
The two-legged urban needs a side- walk.
But now there's only talk of a skywalk.
In jnnurm, for flyover there's room; Subways and expressways, you see from a bedroom.
Nano, nano, nano and Jaguars will race, For Johny Walker or jaywalker there's no place.
You want to walk? Have you no terrace?
If not try a treadmill and take some solace.
City fathers and mayors are busy filling potholes.
In your holy city, you can only look at loopholes.
Beware a lurking two-wheeler behind a car, Look right and left and that too far.
Remember you are two-legged and fragile Be not fate's discard; pray be agile!
In great Indian Urban Plan, walkers don't figure.
Throw away your Nike shoes, you bought for vigour.
Jam you have to buy but free is traffic jam.
You can talk the walk but don't ever ram.
Walkers unite! You outnumber lifeless vehicles.
But from city managers, don't expect miracles.
Walk your way, kick your way and lick them hard.
To their eardrums, horn your way till you're heard.

Bavdhan, Pune


An artificial jewellery factory has been operating in front of my house since 1995. It releases gases, though I am not sure what kind. They sure add to pollution.

The factory also discharges untreated effluents into the Assi river, which joins the Ganga. There is reason to suspect foulplay because the factory operates only at night.

I complained to the pollution control board officials but they refused to register the complaint. The municipality has also not responded. Please tell me what I should do.

Bajardiha, Varanasi

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