Published: Saturday 31 March 2007


This is in response to the editorial "Excreta's economy: a true experience", (February 15, 2007). The editorial is relevant in today's times. Our problem is not the availability of resources. Management is a major problem area--a constant block towards improving the quality of life. The slogan for the Yamuna river should be 'do not dirty the Yamuna'. Besides, as correctly mentioned, each citizen needs to take care of his by-products and then dump it in an apposite manner. Otherwise, proper waste disposal will remain just a dream. The prime minister's policies show that money is flowing into the coffers of the elite. The luxury enjoyed by them should be limited. Everyone with government money talks of hi-fi sanitary systems for the not-so-privileged group. Reasons are obvious.


The analysis in the editorial must be correct but I do not agree with the conclusion. There is no subsidising the rich in the name of the poor.

Municipalities overcharge us for services that we don't getting ever-- proper drainage for instance. The problem boils down to bad management as far as I am concerned.


The article is interesting.But I disagree with the conclusion that it is (only) the rich who are subsidised.After all, the rich, and even the upper middle class, may pay something for water, but it is the poor who do not pay at all.

Nothing wrong with that but that is the fact.Both water tax and water charges, on a flat rate, in most cases, are in fact collected from every household in Chennai.

In Bangalore, in my campus at the Indian Institute of Management, water is actually metered and we pay water bills that are as high as house rent (some say, because the house is subsidised).

The article clearly and brilliantly highlights total government failure.It also highlights the need to take into account the 'illegal' portion, in public planning, and not turn a blind eye to it, lest it should stink.

V Ranganathan

It would be worthwhile to study detailed project reports (dprs) of sanitation schemes before site visits. All aspects should be investigated at the pre-feasibility and feasibility stages of investigations. A dpr should produce a holistic scheme based on adequate investigation. dprs are often based on inadequate investigations resulting in situations like the 'tale of excreta'. A dpr should not be considered an instrument to get funds released for a scheme; it is a blue print with time lines and road map to achieve the objectives. I think any task force should meet consultants who prepare them for projects. If deviations occur, then certainly it reflects deficiencies in the dpr or in the planning and execution of the scheme.



This is in response to the editorial "Guns, saws and double standards", (January 31, 2007). It is an excellent example of the economic and political modulations (manipulations) practised by conservationists. The problem here is the detachment of the philo-sophy of conservation from the practice of it. We still need to 'invest' mental currency in an active environmental philosophy, which I would like to call environmental nationalism as our guiding force.

With the lack of such a guiding force, conservationists have leaned towards the economics, instead of a balance with other forces (social, political and ecological). This results in double standards.

It is mentioned that tourism business in Ranthambore does not feed conservation. This is true for other businesses as well, pharmaceutical companies for instance. They extract plant material from forests and do not think of conservation or the land they use or even the medicinal plants. Conservationists today are fast turning into 'enviroprenuers'.

The battle between 'business' and 'livelihoods' will wage on until the spirit of environmental nationalism is kindled in the hearts of our population. Your publication is excellent and the manner in which you present complicated issues for everyone to understand is indeed laudable.


The analysis and comparison of developments in Ranthambore and Jambudwip are relevant. The dichotomy in the approach of the so-called conservationists is well brought out. I am shocked and pained to see conservationists and tiger lovers joining tourist operators in Ranthambore.

It is true that in the name of tourism, we are permanently damaging our ecology, wild-life and animal habitats. We are just focused on dollars. It appears that the government is spending on hotels and tourists at the cost of the local people. This is clear evidence of vested interests. We need to keep fighting this out. I wish you the best in the cause.


Your perspectives present the dilemma of the Indian conservation movement aptly in the context of a capital-driven economy. Meaning, if one is influential, it gets easier to get things done. I suppose the hotel industry pays politicians and administrators directly. And the money is spent purely for personal purposes.

As a wildlife professional, I can understand the situation pretty well. For conservation efforts to succeed the local community (including the local administration) has to be involved. In fact, the conservation of the Ranthambore tiger reserve should be entrusted to the community--for patrolling, security and for help in research. The local community should be educated about environment conservation in relation to their own surroundings. This should be an ongoing process. They must be shown how important it is to maintain tigers for the sustenance of the environment. The movement must be intertwined with their culture so that they feel it is a part of their legacy and not some business.


Thoughtful piece. Tourism or fisheries, anything in excess is bad for the system. Excessive fishing off the Galapagos Islands has started affecting the fragile ecosystem of the island, the same way the unbridled tourism is affecting wildlife in Bandipur. In fact, all our reserves are affected in some way or the other. We need to strike a balance between what weneed and what we want. People working in the 'supposedly' conflicting fields of wildlife conservation and tribal upliftmentneed to come together on a common platform to fight the stronger and more destructive forces waiting to take over the forests in the name of development. The balance needs to be brought about immediately.


Delivery agencies?

This is in response to "Money Goes Down" (December 31, 2006). It is amazingly incisive and comprehensive. It gives an excellent account of the weaknesses and achievements of panchayati raj institutions (pris). The article has highlighted the macro and micro dimensions of pris, as it exists today. Now the question is how the civil society and government use this wealth of knowledge for corrective steps and consolidation. I understand that the second wave of reforms in improving and strengthening local-self governance must get a push now. The article, however, has failed to highlight that pris have begun to be seen as service delivery agencies, rather than institutions of governance. Ironically, this is contrary to constitutional mandate.


Batting order, late, is it?

This is in response to "Bat tracks" (May 31, 2002). Thanks for one of the most informative article that I have ever read.

I've just spent the morning watching the fruit bats at the Theosophical Gardens in Chennai. And I am curious to know what kind of species they are and the hours of their activity.

Hundreds were flying back to their colony tree at 9 in the morning, which seemed late for nocturnal creatures. Also, I was surprised to see that their bodies were covered in a golden fur ... the tree looked laden with magical fruits. Thank you for a great website (www.downtoearth.org.in).


Congested economy

This is response to "Economics of congestion" (January 31, 2006). There is an issue that has to be faced squarely when it comes to providing roadway capacity in urban cities in Asia--of prioritising lanes or general roadway capacity to public transit.Your suggestions about congestion and pricing mechanisms corresponds to conventional wisdom that when it come to addressing common traffic-calming measures there is a critical shortfall of available urban roadway space in Asia, compared to similar metropolises in either North America or Europe.

As you also correctly point out, supply of roadway capacity attracts its own demand, resulting in perennial congestion within a typical laissez-faire approachto roadway traffic management--no tolls, no peak/off-peak traffic congestion charges, minimal or no parking fees. But it is high time that traffic authorities in Asian metropolises come to grips with the inevitable reality that a laissez-faire approach in traffic management will lead to sudden and acute traffic gridlock,no matter what additions to roadway capacity are factored into the system.

Given the current modal share patterns characteristic of trip generation between private and public transport modes, it behooves traffic management authorities to urgentlyprioritise available as well asplanned additional roadway capacity in favour of exclusive bus lanes to optimise the performance characteristics of public transit such as to retain (if not increase) existing modal share of urban traffic. That is to say that, in economic terms, supply management of roadway infrastructure has toexplicitly recognise the existing pattern of roadway use, rather than focus on accommodating ever-increasing volumes of private passenger vehicles.

I feel there is literally no alternative to explicitly managing and regulating the use of the entire urbanarterial network so as to preserve and protect existing modal share. Contrary to other forms of urban corridor infrastructure, such as metro or light rail, roadway capacity is in fact multi-modal and it should be conceived as yet another form of dedicatedpublic modalcorridor infrastructure in which the 'residual' or parallel general traffic lanes should be tightly regulated.

Nowhere in the world can it be legitimately claimed that urban transport is sustainable (with the possible exception of Singapore); hence to maintain this default approach to roadway capacity provision is a recipe for disaster, to which the application of the conventional 'menu' of traffic calming measures will simply not suffice.

Your organisation should now influence public authorities to think outside the box and adopt radical traffic planning and management measures.



There is a stream, popularly called Vaei, which flows from Hoshiarpur to Jalandhar in Punjab, and finally joins the Sutlej river. At present, it carries along with it a lot of sewage and faecal matter. But this was not the case earlier. It was crystal clear with pure water flowing through the channel about 10 years ago. It was used by travellers and animals for drinking but now it emits such foul odour and stink that it is not possible to bear the stench anymore, its use for irrigation or consumption appears a far-fetched idea.

There have been several complaints by villagers living along its course. Incidents of people succumbing to the toxic water that is black in colour have also surfaced. The black colour is the result of industrial waste. The extent of damage is such that the leaves of the water hyacinth around have turned dry. The surrounding soil is also turning black on which there is no vegetation.


Test Message

Livelihoods of fisherfolk is at stake as the Mundra special economic zone (sez) on the northern shore of the Gulf of Kutch gets underway. Potentially the largest sez in the country, it covers 28 km of coastline and is spread across 13,000 hectares (ha). While the Adani Group, the promoters, claims the Mundra sez is the first to have both seaport and airport within it and offers substantial employment opportunities, ngos feel the sez will cause displacement and destroy livelihoods. ...

Collectively responsible

This is in response to 'Lethal dumping' (January 31, 2007). Needless to say municipal solid waste management is a complicated issue. Any initiative to improve solid waste management is bound to fail without the active involvement of the community. I do not understand how we can single out municipal authorities for mismanagement. The starting point for waste management is segregation of waste and this has to take place right at the resident's level. But does this happen?

Segregated waste is a resource and it can save lot of trouble for any waste management agency. Management of un-segregated or mixed waste remains a challenge the world over. There is no efficient technology to tackle this type of waste except for sanitary landfill facilities, which can accept any type of waste provided it is designed and built scientifically. Construction, operation and management of such facilities require huge amounts of money. Who will pay?

It is the community who should bear the cost. But municipal authorities are responsible as well. While I fully appreciate ngos' role as watchdogs, they should put extra effort into awareness programmes. As regards environmentally hazardous dumpsites in the country, little has been done despite the existence of the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules for more than six years. The central government could establish a special cell at the Union ministry of environment and forests or the Central Pollution Control Board and list out such sites based on hazard priority and invite international bids to rehabilitate them and later recover cost from respective cities. This may not be easy but it is certainly cheaper compared to the cost we are going to incur for remediation of environmental and health damage caused by these sites in future.


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