Published: Tuesday 15 January 2008

What's an equitable solution?

I have some preliminary thoughts on your cover story 'Hockey-stick curve' (December 15, 2007).

First we need to emphasize coping strategies and have a socio-ecological perspective on the issue. Then we need to come up with mechanisms that may interest communities at large.

It is important to take the relevant science to the society. For that, modern knowledge systems must make space for traditional ecological knowledge. This in turn will lead to societally relevant technologies.

P S Ramakrishnan

Down to Earth At the end of reading your articles, I am still in the dark and trying to find an equitable solution to the problem of reducing co2 emissions. My efforts fall flat for developing countries like India and China, which carry a burden of huge population, poor energy production and scarcity of funds.

Developed countries are neither making any effort to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions nor are they willing to accept any limit based on their per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

They are instead shifting the burden to the developing world. Developing countries, on the other hand, are fighting to create decent livelihoods for their people. They are not in a position to adopt expensive pollution-free energy systems, and the developed economies don't seem willing to share their green technologies.

We understand the problem but have not yet found an equitable and just solution. I firmly believe that the present practice of carbon credits will not yield meaningful results. More importantly it is immoral. It is like telling a beggar, I will give you a few rupees, provided you continue to beg.

I have thought of recommending creation of a Global Green Bank. Under the plan, all countries emitting more than 2.15 tonnes per capita of co2 should be mandated to pay a fine in proportion to the excess pollution and their total population. The fund could then be invested in the Global Green Bank.

It will also be used to support the countries whose co2 emissions are less than the 2.15 tonnes per capita limit.

The fund can also be used by developing countries for obtaining relatively clean energy technologies and installing them in their respective countries.

The problem is who will make the polluter's pay the fine? How does one ensure that the Global Green Bank does not become a tool of developed nations like other world organizations? And how do we determine the quantum of fine, and also ensure that developing countries have access to affordable technologies, for which they would seek grants from the bank?

Chairman, PRL Council
ISRO, Department of Space,
Government of India

Down to Earth I completely agree with the recommendations made in your cover story. You have said that our forests can be critical players in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, one of the reasons for setting up the Department of New Energy Sources, now the Union Ministry of New Energy Sources, was to encourage plantations. A detailed protocol in this regard was worked out at the first meeting on energy in the country organized in Hyderabad decades ago. Unfortunately, the project fell through.

Pushpa Mittra Bhargava

Down to Earth It is time for power manufacturing plants using traditional sources to shift to renewable energy. Simply spending huge money on other measures to reduce carbon emissions is no solution.

Efforts by Tulsi Tanti, chairper.

India in peril

Your editorial 'In credible India' (November 30, 2007) is very moving. I fear that far too few people in India and around the world recognize the perils that India faces today--far more daunting than those in the past.

Tom Carter

Voice against legislation

This is in response to the article 'Forest grump' (November 30, 2007). Vanashakti is actually worried about the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Hence this organization of concerned citizens has launched the campaign.

Handing care of the forests to a tribal community as a community resource is one thing, but giving individual families ownership rights to separate parcels of land is a completely different thing. The process of assigning parcels of land and the fact that not all tribals will get land is definitely going to cause dissension among tribals.

Peter Armand Menon

Subsidizing e-bikes

Non-polluting electrically powered bikes, also known as e-bikes, are gaining popularity across the country. These two-wheelers run on battery and can easily be recharged from domestic electric outlets.

People do not require a registration certificate or a licence from the transport department to ride these vehicles. It is a safer option of travelling within the city, especially for students. However the cost of the e-bike is quite high, about Rs 30,000, which deters people from buying it. Given the advantages of e-bikes, the government should bring down its cost by lowering the tax imposed on it or by offering a subsidy. This will definitely promote e-bikes.

David Gandhi

Patenting people's knowledge

The article 'Registering caution' (December 15, 2007) underscores the urgency to document people's knowledge of biodiversity.

The move will not only establish community control over traditional knowledge and practices, but also challenge the current intellectual property rights regime.

In this context, I share with your magazine a media report that I came across recently. The report talks about an agriculturalist in Tamil Nadu who has been exporting seeds of a local plant, known in Tamil as Kanthal malar, for over 15 years.

The agriculturalist says the seed is being used to manufacture drugs, particularly for treating diseases such as cancer and osteoarthritis. He also says that the seed is in huge demand in foreign countries.

The plant is abundant in Tamil Nadu's forests. The agriculturalist also grows them in a village in Namakkal district. Is our biodiversity authority aware of this plant?

C V Raman Nagar Main Road,
Nagavarapalya, Bangalore

Radioactive renaissance

This is in response to the report 'Radioactive discussion' (December 31, 2007). The debate over the Indo- us nuclear deal has been blinkered to environmental issues.

Nearly all commentators have focussed on the foreign policy aspect of the deal. Critics have said that it will undermine the country's sovereignty. Supporters on the other hand say that the deal will improve the country's energy security. The hazards of nuclear energy cannot be overstated. A nuclear power plant has not been commissioned in the us since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident shattered public trust in nuclear technology.

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster damaged confidence in atomic energy worldwide. But the nuclear industry and its allies in the us government are back for what our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has termed "nuclear renaissance". This renaissance will give a spurt to the country's economy, we are told. The nuclear deal assumes that nuclear energy is an economic and safe way to produce electricity for India. But its proponents have overlooked an important point. After 60 years of public funding, the Department of Atomic Energy produces less than 3 per cent of India's electricity. In comparison, in less than a decade and without state support, wind energy now accounts for about 5 per cent of India's electric capacity. The real energy challenge facing India is to meet the needs of the majority of people who are not connected to the electricity grid.

India needs to develop sustainable and affordable energy systems for this purpose. Renewable energy resources fit this bill far better than nuclear energy.

john stanly

Right direction

This is in response to your cover story on vanilla and its synthetic variety 'Dark essence' (August 15, 2007).

We have realized the seriousness of the problem and are taking several measures to safeguard the interest of vanilla farmers.

Government-controlled co-operative institutions such as Mother Dairy and the National Dairy Development Board have been asked to buy natural vanillin from farmers and use it in products like ice creams.

We have also submitted a proposal to the Government of India, requesting it reimburses vanilla farmers the difference between the cost of the natural and synthetic vanillin. Besides, the minister of state for commerce and industry has also written to the Union minister for health and family welfare to consider mandatory labelling of ice cream, since most of the ice creams are produced using synthetic vanilla or artificial vanilla flavours.

Such labelling has already been made mandatory in various countries across the world.

The milk cooperative Amul has also reportedly decided to purchase natural vanilla from Vanilco, Kerala.

We hope that the Spices Board's efforts in promoting the consumption of natural vanilla will yield a positive result shortly.

s kannan
Director (Marketing)
Spices Board, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India


Recycling e-waste

In the article 'E-waste in real space' (March 31, 2005), you have talked about a Bangalore-based private organization, Eparisara, which works on scientific recycling of e-waste.

Is the organization still functioning? We have about a tonne of defused tube lights. Can Eparisara take these e-wastes from us?

MRPL, Mangalore


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