Apropos your cover story 'Fanning an alternative' (August 1-15, 2008) I feel like sharing a few thoughts. I had also suspected that wind power generation in India was motivated by government subsidies rather than as a need to generate clean power or as a concern for the environment.
Your article has covered all relevant issues concerning the sector--cost, sale price and subsidies. But I wish you had also talked about those few installers of windmills. Besides, there is no discussion on the scale of wind power generation. As per my understanding, most of the wind farms in India are big. But small-scale wind farms, say with a capacity of 10 kw, can benefit the rural sector that still remains deprived of electricity from the national grid. Local communities can be shareholders in such small projects and can use some of the power generated.
It is astounding to learn that investors in wind energy earn huge tax benefits including central government incentives of an 80 per cent accelerated depreciation and a 10-year tax holiday. No wonder, affluent people and organizations are investing in this sector. My fear is instead of building up as a long-term solution for clean energy, the sector will become a tool for self-aggrandisement in the hands of politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists.
The article is packed with useful statistical data and information. It can be handy for entrepreneurs willing to venture into wind business. At the same time, I hope the article awakens government agencies to take corrective measures.
Poor plant load factor (plf) is the prime reason for higher unit cost in the wind power projects. In West Bengal, where the plf is about 10 per cent, it is observed that outage of the grid is the biggest problem which is why there is no power even when the wind is available.
During off-season, breakdowns because of poor maintenance worsen the situation. It seems the ministries concerned are yet to evaluate the performance of wind energy properly. Wind farms can generate at least 50 per cent more energy than their current capacity just by increasing the average plf to 22.5 per cent. Unless the benefit of renewable energy in terms of conservation of conventional resources and curbing global warming is appreciated, it will not garner sufficient attention from authorities.
C R Bhattacharjee
658, Lake Gardens, Kol-45
Environmentalism of the poor
With reference to the editorial 'Learn to walk lightly' (August 1-15, 2008), I too believe that it is time to wake up to the voice of the poor. How long will we keep robbing them? We have already taken away their land and forests in the name of development.
Bitter experience has taught them that all the promises of jobs and money made to them are hollow. We can develop as a nation only by prudent use of every bit of resource that we already possess, not by exploiting them further.
Let us remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: "Earth provides enough for everybody's need but not enough for everybody's greed."
Your editorial talks about the commissioning and de-commissioning of various projects. This shows how the common man is always taken for a ride.
We need dams, mines and thermal power projects for development. Fair enough. But why do we forget simple ways of living?
Take this for instance. In some parts of India people still generate electricity from human excreta. It is neither a great technology nor does it require sophisticated infrastructure. Similarly, we can recharge groundwater following methods like rainwater harvesting and overcome water scarcity. I am sure there is no dearth of funds for such projects. What is missing is the political will.
Many of us are genuinely concerned about environmental pollution. But the truth is we cannot stop development that is industry centric. May be, we should then focus more on waste disposal measures, particularly those generated by industries. While scientists develop sophisticated technologies in this regard, the government should emphasize on stringent regulations for their implementation.
I agree with the point that you have made in the editorial. Still, I believe that we need to sacrifice to grow into an advanced country. The whole world is progressing at a certain pace. If we do not keep up we will be left behind.
This is in response to your report 'Heavy metal', (August 16-31, 2008). Many people around the world were watching this unequal match between mining giant Vedanta of London and the rights, livelihood and social values of the tribal people in Orissa. The Supreme Court of India's ruling favouring the mining giant is unjust.
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
In your cover story 'Astray?' (August 16-31, 2008), you have mentioned that the Sunderbans tiger can't mark out its territory with its urine, as all cats do, because markings get washed away by the tides."
But as an avid watcher of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, I have learned that a big cats specially urinate on areas that remain protec-ted from the weather impact. They also leave scratch marks on trees as well as on the ground to mark their territory.
bibhu ranjan das
History of food
I enjoy reading your food page. But it leaves me dissatisfied.
Apart from capturing the traditional food varieties, I would like to know more about the evolution of the particular food. Take cereal crops like jawar and bajra for example.
Once these pulses used to be important part of many people's delicacies. But with the introduction of electricity, irrigation became easier and people shifted to the cultivation of wheat. Eventually these traditional food crops, which are the rich sources of fibre, folic acid and other vitamins, have taken a backseat. Similar is the story of chickpea. Rotis made of chickpea flour used to be common. Now it's getting out of our list of dishes. Reminding people of the glorious past of such food and food products is important. Particularly because they are considered 'poor man's food' in today's society.
Politics of vaccination
The World Health Organization (who) had once said that the cholera vaccine manufactured by Vietnam was "not up to the standard".
But the country did not stop manufacturing vaccines just because of who's criticism. Currently, it manufactures one of the cheapest and best quality cholera vaccines in the world. Why then India has become submissive before the who? Recently, the Indian government closed down all public sector vaccine production units after who experts cast doubts. Can't we pursue our policies keeping the interest of our people in mind and with some faith in our institutions?
Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
Why no check on quarries?
The Himachal Pradesh government's decision to grant licence to the Birla group for establishing a cement plant in the vicinity of Sunder Nagar town is not a wise decision.
The plant will come up on a 1,100 bigha (1 bigha=0.67 hectare) of farmland, which can otherwise produce over 2 lakh tonnes of maize. Hundreds of quarries, small and big, are currently operating across the hilly areas of the Himachal Pradesh with least regard to regulations such as the Forest Conservation Act and the Mines Safety Act.
Rampant quarrying activities has also aggravated the problem of soil erosion in the state.
Sunder Nagar is a quality hub for education and medical services. Turning it into a mining haven in the name of development would only undo what has been built, block by block, over the years.
L R Sharma
Sunder Nagar, Himachal Pradesh
Lack of manpower
In the special report, 'Bare bone structure' (August 1-15, 2008), while listing some convictions in wildlife crime cases, you have rightly mentioned the various aspects of wildlife trade and the problems faced by the officials.
Our forest guards actually lack right training and weaponry to tackle poachers. The government has set up agencies like the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. But the agency lacks the required manpower.
If the government is serious about tackling wildlife crimes, it should also consider hiring specialists from relevant fields.
ngos should not shy away from being involved as third parties during court cases, since they are involved in checking wildlife trade.
The recent decision of the Bombay High Court refusing permission to a couple to abort their 25-week-old foetus, upholding the provisions of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act, has sparked a raging debate.
The pro-life or pro-abortion debate is not a new one. But when viewed from a legal angle, it raises many questions. The foetus had been diagnosed with severe congenital disorder, requiring the baby to wear a permanent pacemaker. The court might have done its duty by upholding the law. But the question that follows its verdict is that who would bear the huge costs that the couple would have had to bear? What about the poor quality of life that the child would have been subjected to? Should or should not the mother have the right to abort, particularly in cases like this?
Pno 50, Santosh niwas
Kondhw khurd, Pune
The investigative article on Tripura's jewellery business, 'Fatal attraction' (August 1-15, 2008) presented some well researched information.
I am sure that the same must be happening in other parts of the country as well. After all, the jewellery business is not confined to Agartala alone. We also need concrete research into the industry to learn the kinds of health hazards it poses. Besides, the market is now flooded with fake jewellery. Various kinds of metals and chemicals are used to make such jewellery and they can be allergic. Even if it is gold or silver coated, one never notices when the gold flake goes off and the skin gets exposed to the metal within. It's time that regulatory authorities took a note of it.
Tamil Nadu's fertile agricultural land is facing serious damage because of the influx of effluents from the surrounding tannery factories. The state accounts for about 75 per cent of the country's leather exports.
The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Research Centre in Vellore (now in Virincheepuram), in its March 6,1992 report, had said that 35,000-40,000 hectares of fertile wetlands in Vellore district alone were either partially or completely affected because of tannery effluents. The situation has worsened since, as confirmed by media reports.
Recently, I came to know that The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, is researching on the issue. I request Dr Swaminathan to take serious steps before it is too late.
P S SUBRAHMANIAN
Muruganadi F-4, Kannika Nivas
Ranga Nagar, Tiruchirapalli
The article 'Savour the lingra' (August 16-31, 2008), erroneously stated that "People in urban areas grow lingra in their kitchen gardens (in hill culture, kitchen gardens are a must have for every house)."
The vegetable is not cultivated and people collect it from the wild. We regret the error.
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