Published: Tuesday 15 April 2008

Bad technology for the Himalaya

I have been working in the Western Himalayan region since 1994. I have seen many changes in the region's climate. The region has been a tourist spot since the 1970s. Of late, people in the region have been suffering from health problems because of a new technology being used to produce cement-stabilized compressed blocks. Those who sell this technology claim it is economical and environment friendly.

In 2002, the first mud brick machine was brought from Tamil Naidu to the village of Nako in upper Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. I was sceptical about the effects of the equipment and researched on its application aspects. I found the technology totally unfit for this arid and highly earthquake-prone zone. But I fear this system may gradually replace the 1,000 year-old indigenous building technology in the region.

The vendors have little knowledge about the materials used. They do not have any research data on their effects and cannot back their claims either. Still they managed to convince the people and local architects to use this technology. I have tried several times to convince them, but in vain.

Sandeep Sikka

Labour pains

This is in response to the special report 'Workers be damned' and the leader article 'Tender notice for common sense' (Down To Earth, February 29, 2008) on regulating the use of asbestos. Cheaply available, asbestos is a threat to environment and people. In India asbestos is used without safety measures. That over 40 countries have regulated its use is proof enough to understand the various problems it poses. The reluctance of the union Ministry for Chemicals and Fertilizers in checking its hazards seems dubious.

The government should give priority to the health of labourers. It cannot ignore the statistics in the Down To Earth article, recorded scientifically with a stringent warning. India should not thrive on the ordeals of its labourers.

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Sour facts

Apropos the report 'Bad spirit' (Down To Earth, February 29, 2008), I wish to cite the example of the now-defunct Motipur Sugar Mill in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district. The mill used to produce huge amount of waste which would reach the Budhi Gandak river flowing nearby. There was no system in place to monitor or manage this.

Now there are efforts to revive the mill. Even companies such as Reliance are eyeing it. We are scared that the old problem will pop up again. As your article puts it, the distilleries are still polluting. Effluent discharge from sugar mills and distilleries needs strict monitoring.

Muzaffarpur, Bihar

Farmers' glory

This is in response to the editorial 'Laboratory of development' (Down To Earth, December 28, 2007). It is a unique write-up on farmers in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district, who scripted a success story. I would like to see such stories widely publicized all over agricultural India.

H C Pandey

Not lost any more

The World Conservation Union (iucn) might have to make one small, yet significant amendment to its report on the Indus dolphin (Platanista minor). The report says the river dolphin, believed to be not more than 1,000 in number, is "regionally extinct" in India. In an exciting development, the Indus dolphin, or a sub-species of it, was spotted at the Harike Wildlife Bird Sanctuary in Haryana in December 2007 by Basanta Rajkumar, a divisional forest officer.

Since Harike is not a natural habitat of the dolphin, which is now only found across the Indus stretch in Pakistan, this sighting has come as a big surprise. Many scientists are studying the reasons and have come up with measures to protect the dolphin.

Dinsa Sachan

Mining protest

As your editorial 'Witness to opposition' (Down To Earth, February 29, 2008) on bauxite mining shows, companies are hoodwinking the poor, depriving them of their livelihoods. Such instances are common today, especially at the sezs.

There must be transparency in matters such as land acquisition and companies and authorities should seek the consent of the people who stand to be affected. Government has a right to acquire land, if it is for a project which will help the public. However, it should ensure adequate compensation to those affected. This has to go beyond paltry cash compensation. People who lose land should be made share holders in the profits of the company. They should get priority in jobs.

Lala Jagannath Prasad

Save Nagarhole

The plan to upgrade the 92-km-long highway linking Mysore in Karnataka and Manandavadi in Kerala will cause environmental problems. About 30 km of the highway passes through the Nagarhole National Park and other rich biospheres, home to a variety of species. The highway will encourage more tourism and will lead to logging and destruction of wildlife. How do we save Nagarhole?

Shantharam Shenai

An express issue

The Ganga expressway project in Uttar Pradesh has several environmental problems. Authorities are planning to construct an eight-lane road along the left side of the Ganga river, linking Ballia and Noida. They seem to have ignored some key issues.

Road along the bank of a river means its destruction in floods each year; therefore, recurring expenditure on maintenance. Building the road high to avoid this will generate another problem. The road will obstruct the river flow and will lead to huge deposition of mud on the river bed, decreasing the river's cross-section. During rainy season, when more water flows through Ganga, the water will find its way into other areas including nearby towns, triggering floods. The logged water will breed mosquitoes and cause diseases such as malaria.

The project will consume more than 12,000 hectares of farmland. Each year Ganga brings in billions of tonnes of fertile soil along the river basin. The planners have proposed to develop an investment region along the road under which 500 large and 7,000 medium or small industries will come up. The industrial effluents and garbage will find their way to the river and will pollute the surface and groundwater sources.

Anil Kumar Dwivedi

Care; not cars

Apropos the cover story on small cars (Down To Earth, October 15, 2007), in the age of global warming is a small car revolution what a developing country like India needs? We have to get our priorities right and the environment should be among the top few.


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