Environment v science
There is a considerable lack of transparency in the promotion of the neutrino project ('Neutrino in elephant's way', September 1-15, 2008), which leads one to suspect a lack of integrity in presenting the facts.
The Asian elephant is not the only threatened species in the region; there are over 10 other threatened mammals. Mudumalai also houses critically endangered white-rumped vultures and is listed as an important bird area. Hence, if we limit the discussion to elephants, we run the risk of missing other important conservation issues.
Some comments are admissions that no proper site search has been done by the ino (India-based Neutrino Observatory) team. Why were geologists not involved in the search and why was it restricted to Palani hills? The Environmental Impact Assessment (eia) and the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) have also not been put in the public domain. Care Earth, an ngo assigned the task of developing an emp, had to rely on the eia conducted by Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (sacon), which was headed by an eco-toxicologist. The ngo calls eia done by sacon a 'Rapid eia'. Does that mean that the consultants did not have enough money or expertise to conduct a comprehensive eia and that the conclusions rest on facts that could not be verified? The entire emp of Care Earth may well rest on insufficient data and an inadequate eia.
ino website claims that the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydroelectric Project didn't affect the flora and fauna. Are these comments based on facts? Loss of forest cover in Sigur plateau accelerated from 12 hectares (ha) per year between 1973 and 1989 to 21 ha per year between 1989 and 1999. Vast quantities of quarry muck from the tunnelling dumped in a quarry hole contaminated the Moyar river, making the water unfit for consumption. This makes the claim baseless.
Digging tunnels through mountains is a major undertaking. What are its environmental impacts? The Srisailam Left Bank Canal Tunnel Scheme is a case in point, in which the tunnelling operation through Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve was designed not to cause any disturbance to the vulnerable and threatened species. However, a recent report states that the activity has destroyed the beauty of the tiger reserve and caused enormous disturbance to wildlife. Despite this, a high impact project was implemented in a tiger reserve apparently without a proper eia. This portends what will befall Mudumalai region upon implementation of INO project.
The integrity of this region cannot be compromised. The basic tenets of science should be respected at all stages of the project: open access to information to enable citizens to judge for themselves, proper evaluation of alternative sites, realistic data of impacts on endangered species.
Professor, Pondicherry University
Justice for whom
I read the editorial 'On quality of mercy' (September 1-15, 2008) and wept. Not for the poor fishermen who had been deprived of their livelihoods; in any case they were living a fragile life. I wept for the forest conservation mandarins who can get away with anything they do.
Judiciary is the weakest link when enforcement of discipline and accountability is tried. Your editorial on the Central Empowered Committee (cec) illustrates how.
Why is the Supreme Court not responsible and accountable for any non-conformity under the Right To Information Act, 2005? Why has the Central Information Commission allowed it to go scot-free?
I think our President should extend the jurisdiction of the act to the Supreme Court.
Apropos your editorial on the cec, monetization of redress through penal compensations and the mechanisms of benefit sharing for access to natural resources, speak volumes about governance today.
It is sadly symptomatic of India's rapid economic ascent and hasty adoption of capitalist principles that undermine its ability to differentiate between social and economically justifiable investments. In pursuit of an economically and socially sound model of governance, India will face many dilemmas.
The editorial terrifyingly portrays the true picture of justice. Money makes the world go round. So it seems in this case. But I still believe in what Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
SARITA S DADWAL
Practise, don't preach
The editorial 'Ignorance and arrogance make for good floods' (September 16-30, 2008) was simple and explicit. I had always thought that the us had patented rights to 'ignorance and arrogance'. Sadly, this article was an eye-opener. Do we realize our folly yet? Are any concrete steps being taken?
I, for one, have always been practising rather than preaching; re-cycling and conservation at home, especially of water. The children are quite used to my collection buckets under the acs and ro Aqua guards. My daily help appreciates the reason behind my home composting. Everyone applauds the vegetables my tiny garden produces, thanks to organic farming.
One wonders whether unicef is an independent international body working for the interests of the children or a stamp to represent official opinion. While 24 children have died due to malnutrition in just one district of Madhya Pradesh ('24 deaths in 2 months', August 16-31, 2008), the state government is finding ways to fudge malnutrition deaths. Instead, with help from unicef, the state administration has found an innovative way to reduce poverty and malnutrition. The organization is developing a database of development-related information in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Planning Commission. With the state data on malnutrition among children and infant and maternal deaths flawed, incorrect figures will be reported but with unicef stamp.
Nature played havoc in Bihar by flooding a large portion of the state ('That Sinking Feeling', September 16-30, 2008). Timely help from all the sectors, including the government, is a must. But the best results come from victims' own efforts.
After the Gujarat earthquake, rather than depending on the government for assistance, the people started re-building there lives with help from each other and today they are on their feet. The same attitude is expected of and required in the people of Bihar.
I am sure the right spirit will help Bihar rebuild itself in no time.
Save the diamonds
Tiger conservation should vary depending on the place. For instance, Panna has two kinds of industries, diamond and tiger tourism industry (Bling bling for tigers, September 1-15, 2008). Though Madhya Pradesh government claims 24 tigers in Panna National Park, conservationists contest the figure. Where has all the money spent on tiger conservation gone when official figures show a decrease in tiger population? Tigers in Panna seem to be heading Sariska way. When the tiger tourism industry does not have any future in Panna, why not at least save the diamond industry since?
SATYENDRA K TIWARI
As the nuclear suppliers' group lifts its embargo on nuclear commerce with India, and the country joins the global nuclear family, I want to share a few words about nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy, besides being costly, is a tremendous source of health hazards. While attending a nuclear medicine course in Delhi, we were told not to administer nuclear isotopes to young people suffering from thyroid or polycythemia (a blood disease) because of adverse reactions. We were also told that patients taking isotopes should remain away from children for a few days. Those working in X-ray departments, if exposed for a long time, are prone to cancer and leukaemia.
For the rich, by the rich
Our legal system has been formulated by the powerful people and implemented on the weak. Akshardham temple and the Commonwealth Games village came up on the Yamuna riverbed because we don't have proper regulations to check construction on riverbeds. Then how just is it to remove slums to prevent land degradation?
The festival season has started. I am worried about the total lack of civic sense, which is conspicuous during this time.
Pollution of all kinds is rampant, we litter around the deities and on the streets. Not to mention the noise pollution caused due to use of loud speakers. We even bid the deities goodbye by immersing them in our scarce water bodies, exacerbating the already high levels of water pollution.
All this can be done in a more civilized manner. These are the times when each of us needs to do our own bit to make a difference, and not conspire to set up a huge polluting mechanism.
HEMANT A SANT
Welfare gone wrong
Not all good-intentioned government welfare programmes produce good results. Stringent laws against felling of trees on private land have given an impetus to the increasing green cover. The marginal farmer finds it futile to cultivate main crops since monkeys destroy them and the shadow of trees disrupt their growth. As a result, they switch to fodder farming.
The state government needs to give a serious thought to the situation. Himachal Pradesh has a forest cover of 37,033 sq km, making it 66.5 per cent of total area. Thus, there is no need to impose a ban on tree felling on private land. Secondly, monkey problem needs to be tackled.
Thirdly, agriculture scientists should be asked to develop such varieties of cash crops and vegetables which could be grown successfully in the shadow of trees.
L R SHARMA
I want to draw your attention to a recent ecological issue concerning my district Bastar in Chhattisgarh. In September, the government acquired over 2,430 hectares owned by farmers on both sides of National Highway 43 and fenced it for eucalyptus plantation.
This land has standing paddy crops. No notification was issued before it was acquired. The Forest, Revenue and Police departments showed amazing coordination, working towards it. No farmer can dare resist the move.
Apropos the article 'Myopic relief' (August 1-15, 2008), I would like to share my experience with bird lovers. A bird resembling Swainson's thrush, used to grace one of the tender branches of my pomegranate tree every evening. I haven't spotted this particular bird since a fortnight. Before vanishing it brought with it three friends with shorter tails who occupy the other branches.
I wonder if anyone has spotted such birds.
S I M JAFRI
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