Published: Monday 31 March 2008

West side story

The developed world's addiction to energy is the cause for the immorality of climate change. It is getting worse. Let me give you some appaling examples. Eighty one per cent of London's food is now imported. How unsustainable is that? Even more unbelievable is that there are 888 airfreight flights to the uk every single day bringing in food. Not to mention all the low-cost airlines encouraging us to take even more trips abroad at absurdly low prices. It frustrates me intensely that there is so much indifference to the state of the planet, whether it is to do with the ongoing sixth mass extinction, habitat loss, or the inevitable climate change.

It is no surprise that the glaciers and polar ice caps are fast melting. Here is another example; one in three uk computers is left switched-on all the time. People in the country are affluent and they are able to pay their energy bills and the apathy is prevalent.

These examples are enough to make an absolute mockery of the rhetoric we hear where the uk's commitment to the Kyoto protocol is concerned. Leaving aside the fiasco of carbon credits, which does not deal with the causes of the problem, how can the country possibly keep its co2 emissions at or below the 1990 levels when we have got more cars and commercial vehicles on the roads than ever, and more planes in the skies than ever?

It is time for us to change our habits and acknowledge our irresponsibility, then question and alter our beliefs.

Tim Bevan

A case of misrepresentation

The report 'Coal-fired threat' (Down To Earth, January 31, 2008) on power plants threatening Ratnagiri's Alphonso mangoes did not ascertain facts. It maligned the thermal power project and the greenfield port project being set up by the jsw Group at Jaigad.

The Thermal Power Project has received all the necessary clearances. It is not being set up in Ratnagiri, but in Jaigad, 65 km away. Less than 1.36 per cent of the area in 10-km radius around the project is under the mango plantation. Again, less than 1 per cent of the area under the mango cultivation in Ratnagiri taluka falls within the impact zone of the project.

The study by the Lucknow-based Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (itrc), mentioned in the report, clearly establishes that there is 'no injury' to mango saplings at the so2 exposure level of 0.8 ppm. Further, there would be no hot water discharge from the plant. It is designed to discharge no effluent to the sea in normal conditions.

On the presence of corals at the port project site, studies of the National Institute of Oceanography (nio) did not find corals along this coast. The environment impact assessment was carried out by a reputed organization and was thoroughly scrutinized before giving the environmental clearance. One cannot dismiss it as "bogus" just because an ill-informed villager thinks so.

Coal is neither going to be stored in the open nor on a hill top. The coal stock yard will be covered, encircled by a wide shelterbelt of trees, besides being equipped with effective dust suppression systems.

The public hearing was conducted with all the due process in place. It is incorrect to say that the Maharashtra pollution control board (mpcb) is yet to respond to the redrawn environmental mapping process that the company submitted. mpcb responded positively through an affidavit in the Bombay High Court on the October 3, 2007. Above all, Down To Earth should have desisted from publishing the article, when the matter is sub judice.

V M Sastri


Aletter by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (moef's) on May 17, 2007, clearly stated that the environmental clearance to the project was subject to the decision of the High Court of Bombay on the Ratnagiri Zila Jagruk Manch and Others Vs Govt of Maharashtra and Others case. It has not obtained all the clearances. Now the matter is with the National Environment Appellate Authority.

Besides, the project needs diversion of a tarred road which the public frequently used. The eia for the project does not mention alternative plans for this road. Given the topography of the area, any new alignment can pass only along the boundary of the project area, which will fall under crz zone.

Our article talks about the fear of mango crops being affected due to a number of thermal power plants coming up in Ratnagiri district. mpcb in its affidavit also stated studies are needed to ascertain impact on biodiversity, mango and marine life. The exclusive contribution of the jsw project to the danger could be less, but our report talks about what all such projects coming up in the region could do.

Moreover, the itrc study is a short-term one which did not find "visible symptoms" at 0.8 ppm; above which it found necrosis and similar symptoms.

On discharge; even the blow-down discharge would be at higher temperature. As a<>

For greater common good

This is in response to your editorial, 'The Nano-flyover syndrome' (Down To Earth, February 15, 2008), Nano is going to be the common man's car. It might bring a revolution in the car industry, the way Maruti did in the late 80s. With Nano hitting the market, prices of second-hand cars will go down and people can buy a small car for about Rs 30,000.

It will force the poor to stretch themselves a little more to own a car, a second-hand one, if they cannot afford a new car. However, there are recurring expenses and they will have to pay its running cost by compromising on their food.

D S Suresh

Down to Earth Your editorial talks about the subsidy to motorization, but what about the subsidy given to petrol? The cost of air pollution is high and it can even match the impacts of congestion that motorization causes. In this context, the cover story 'Nini's nightmare' (Down To Earth, February 15, 2008) is also quite relevant, revealing and remarkable. Beijing is an example Delhi can follow. Improving roads and the public transport system are the keys to solve many of the problems our cities face today.

A Jacob Sahayam

Evolution matters

This is in response to the report 'Get shorty' (Down To Earth, January 31, 2008). Recent discoveries like 'Hobbits' from Indonesia and smaller clavicle from the Narmada region have added to the taxonomic diversity. These findings have raised questions on the role of the environment in shaping the course of human evolution.

As a consequence, it is necessary to critically assess the environmental criteria on which many theories and hypotheses of human evolution hinge. It is necessary that before we associate any present population growth and life expectancy with earlier fossil finding, we must critically analyze and form a perspective for developing and evaluating theories that link palaeoecology to early hominid evolution. This can then be used to suggest a framework for modelling and interpreting environmental data relevant to human evolution.


Hand in hand

Your editorial 'Witness to opposition' (Down To Earth, February 29, 2008) brings in the issue of development versus environment. Both are essential; we have to develop and our industries have to grow.

We should not damage the environment and we cannot unnecessarily delay developmental projects, forcing the entrepreneur to close his operation. There has to be a balance. The industrialist should see to it that a development project does not affect environment.

S K Bhattacharjee
Kota, Rajasthan

Down to Earth This is in response to your article on public hearing on expanding small mines. I wish you had differentiated between small and larger mining companies. Large companies do a lot for protecting the environment through community participation.

Unless industrial activities increase, employment opportunities will be less. The environment is equally important. Both, the environment and development, should strike a balance. Without jobs and food, having just good environment will not help. So, environmentalists have a greater role to play in maintaining this balance.

S S Jaryal

Saving the tiger

I do not think the government can do an eyewash in protecting the tigers. The onus has been on the government since the threat to tigers was first brought up. There were more than 100,000 Royal Bengal Tigers a century ago. We must be ashamed that their population is less than 1,500 today. Established ngos should step in and sensitize the public on how the civil society can protect the species before they vanish from the Earth.

Madhurya Balan

Water issues

On the Palar river issue, the Tamil Nadu public works department minister, Durai Murugan, recently said people in Vellore district, would soon get water from the Hogenakkal water supply project. The government, however, does not have an idea how to meet the expenditure for the project. Apart from the availability of water from the river, its unabated pollution by tanneries and other chemical units functioning nearby is also a serious issue which both the state and the centre have not yet addressed.

P S Subrahmanian
Trichy, Tamil Nadu ...

Heart of the matter

Your editorial (Down To Earth, January 31, 2008) has presented the grim reality of industrial land-grabbing. Development does not signify mere industrial growth. There should be a strategic combination of different sectors like industry, agriculture, science and technology, education and health.

In India, rapid industrialization is growing. Industries are encroaching on the productive land of the poor. Compensation packages from industrial houses cannot ensure the poor a better future. Often, industrial houses offer a job in lieu, say, one hectare of farmland. Do they know the land can employ more than five people? These are the heart and soul of poor villagers and the companies cannot put a price on them. Authorities should bar use of agricultural land for industrial needs.

Pranab Hazra
printex_welcome@yahoo.co.in ...

Language death

It was shocking to read about the language Dura (Down To Earth, February 15, 2008). People who speak a popular language like English may find it hard to understand what losing one's language can really mean.

According to a few recent reports, 3,000 of the about 7,000 languages in the world are dying. The imperialistic attitude of different governments across the globe is responsible for this.

A language is not just a communication tool but it is an important heritage of the human culture. How far can we go in saving dying languages by rescuing a few people such as the ailing Soma Devi Dura? We need some intensive measures to save dying languages.

lalit k yadav
ky.lalit@hotmail.com ...

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