Published: Monday 30 June 2008

Witness Suggestion

Recently, I came across a news report highlighting the plight of labourers employed in quartz crushing units in Gujarat. The report said that there were high incidences of mortality among the workers, particularly among tribals who were taken to work at the units as unregistered daily wagers. Entire villages in the state had been decimated because of the disease. The units are shifting their focus to recruit tribals from Madhya Pradesh.

Similar occurrences of silicosis among railway workers who were asked to drill a tunnel through a silica seam prompted the US government to set up the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the late 1970s. I had conducted a research on this occupational lung disease at the time.

Although no cure is available yet for the disease, a few simple protective measures, such as using face masks and spraying water to reduce the generation of crystalline quartz dust in mining areas, would be extremely helpful in addressing the problem, along with regular medical vigilance.

325 Bluefish Court, Foster City, California, USA

I have a suggestion relating polythene bag removal. What if polythene bags are replaced with plastic baskets or cloth bags? If retail giants such as Reliance Fresh, Vishal Mega Mart and Spencer start providing such alternatives, it will be a great step towards addressing the problem. The retailers may charge Rs 2 or Rs 5 extra for this. The idea may not be feasible for street vendors but big retailers can certainly bring about the change.

Parikshit Dhir

Figures say it all

In the cover story, 'Who is afraid of public transport?' (May 31, 2008), you have mentioned that buses transport 60 per cent of the commuters; cars and two wheelers roughly transport 20 per cent. In that case, buses definitely deserve appropriate share of road space. The bus rapid transit (brt) is a commendable start. A few days back, I read an article that said that buses are the highest tax payers on the roads. Logically then more road space should be allocated to them. Of course, if the two- or three-wheelers, cars and other vehicles are adequately disciplined, most of the chaos on the roads will subside.

As far as the efforts to drive commuters to public transport systems is concerned, there is a need for improving the comfort and services offered by buses. The government might think of introducing some luxury buses, at least on pilot basis, for the so-called elite passengers. These buses may charge more. But this will certainly tempt a good lot of car users to shift to public transport. Though metro is a good attempt in this regard, authorities are yet to improve connectivity from metro stations.

S K Bhattacharjee
Gadepan, Kota, Rajasthan

Down to Earth I am a student of architecture. I have worked on the brt as a project trainee. It is really sad the way the media is commenting on it without first going deep into the matter.

The real problem with brt is the way traffic rules are being followed. Introduction of the system has only exposed the incompetence of the traffic police. Problems arise when buses enter from regular roads into brt lanes. The traffic police should guide people and control the traffic at this point, which is not happening. Please do not blame the designers and planners of brt for such mismanagement.


Down to Earth Is it possible to improve the efficiency of the public transport system to such an extent that even car users will feel motivated to commute by bus? Public transport systems are an urgent requirement of the day to check rising pollution levels. But there is also the need for comfortable vehicles, running on time in an orderly manner.

The Delhi Metro is a commendable step in this regard. But for a capital city like Delhi, more needs to be done. If we don't have sufficient road space then let there be restrictions on procurement of vehicles, like in Singapore. At the same time, let us strive for an efficient and reliable public transport system.

P K Jain


Not a Nano trouble

Tata's Nano may be a common man's dream come true. But it will certainly be a source of trouble, since the urban roads are already over crowded.

J P Madvaiya

Kudremukh: a carbon sink

This is in response to your article 'Many takers of a park' (April 30, 2008). Kudremukh National Park is not only home to several endangered species, it also has unique ecologically sensitive hilly forest, called shola forest.

Shola is a type of high-altitude stunted evergreen forest found in the southern Western Ghats of India. Patches of shola forest are usually interspersed with grasslands forming a shola-grassland mosaic. This prevents the entire forest from getting charred in the event of a fire, unlike deciduous forests. Hence, shola forests act as a treasure trove in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. National parks like Kudremukh need to be managed differently compared to other national parks. They are important carbon sinks and can be traded on the international voluntary carbon market. The funds available in turn can be used to nurture the national park and rehabilitate the inhabitants with more benefits.

B M T Rajeev


Climate warning

The devastating cyclone in Myanmar and the killer quake in China are grim warnings about the dangers of climate change. India has already been cautioned about melting Himalayan glaciers, rising sea level and recurring floods and droughts. It is high time the government took stern action against deforestation, created more green cover, mandated use of energy efficient equipment, invested more on renewable energy sources and revived old water bodies. Rainwater harvesting should be made an integral part of every building.

Jacob Sahayam
Golf Links Road, Thiruvananthapuram

Mining offence

This is in response to your article 'Open Simsim' (May 15, 2008). It is indeed surprising that the Meghalaya government is not so keen on preserving the natural caves in Jaintia Hills.

The caves are not only ecologically important, but are also of great interest to tourists.

Why is the state government waiting to come up with a policy for regulating the rampant mining of coal and limestone in the area? It can simply follow the national mining policy to block these illegal excavation of coal and stone.

Pranab Hazra

Bad environmental behaviour

We criticize industrialized countries like the us as big polluters. But environmental regulations are routinely flouted in our country. Large tracts of forests are cleared off for agriculture; municipality wastes are burnt in open. The common man needs to be made aware of the hazards of pollution first.

Sikander singh bhatti

A session on junking

Apropos your article 'Junk this' (June 30, 2006), there is an increase in the appetite for junk food among Indians. Television advertisements are to be blamed for it.

The government should mandate food companies to mention side effects of eating junk food on their product label. Carbonated drinks should be banned in schools and other educational institutes. School children and parents should also be made aware of the side effects of junk food.

Kaveri Arunachalam

A note of discord

Apropos your article 'Our emissions, their emissions' (May 16-30, 2008), I find it difficult to understand that why the Sierra Club's creation of a "Green Livelihoods Award" should be seen as if the developed world is projecting India as a "villain of climate change".

I am sure that the author recognizes the severity of the challenge humanity faces from climate change. All the countries must commit to aggressively combat climate change and explore all possible methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Kudos to Sierra Club for its willingness to share its organizational capacity and expertise in environmental activism in India. It is myopic on our part to think that India does not need to act, since the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions lies only with industrialized countries.

A recent research from the Center for Global Development shows that "...the global South is on a dangerous and unsustainable emissions path that would lead to a dangerous temperature rise if unchecked."

On another note, the author says, "By the same logic, California should be leading in the switch to green technology as it has plenty of both sun and the sea." California is already leading in the switch to green technology through massive investments in clean technology and through environmental policies.

Institute for Financial Management and Research, Nungambakkam, Chennai

Down to Earth We say that rich countries should act for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, it's also time for India's rich to take a look at their emissions and its effect on global warming.

Bob Stewart

Fussy mustards

Apropos your article 'Oil's not well' (February 15, 2005), you have taken up views of B R Oil Mill and Shree Om Industries in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. I would like to know if these companies have argemone detecting machines in their labs. When dropsy struck Delhi, their brands had been removed from the market because of the presence of the adulterant, argemone. Increasing mustard seed price is not because of the low production, but because of over stocking and futures trading.

Yash Agarwal

Prescribing or endorsing

I read your news report 'Brand ambassadors' (May 16-31, 2008). The Indian Medical Association (ima) endorsing PepsiCo products is nothing new.

Its practising doctors have already been prescribing unnecessary medicines for extraneous favours from drug companies. So far, doctors have been approached only by pharma companies. Now, they will also be courted by other industries.

Wishvas Rane
2117 Sadashiv, Pune

Down to Earth ima's decision to allow doctors to endorse PepsiCo products will only bring down its image and people's faith in doctors.

a j sahayam

Foggy subject

This is in response to your report 'Dark March' (April 15, 2008). It is surprising that such serious issues related to large-scale blackouts hardly receive any attention from the mainstream media.

smita swain
REC Campus, Rourkela

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